Get photos straight from friend’s phones that aren’t even posted online

By Kitty Knowles 15 January 2016
IceCream Discover lets you get photos straight from friends phones. Pic: IceCream.

No more Facebook scouring: This clever new app lets you see photos you might be in, even if they’re not uploaded anywhere.

When it comes to taking pictures, most people are in one of two camps: There are those who capture every single moment of a big night out on their smartphone, and there are those who are busy having too much fun to remember they even have a smartphone in the first place.

As a member of the latter camp, there are long periods when I don’t seem to have any photos documenting what I’ve been up to, who I was with, or where.

While I’m not angling to suddenly live my entire life online, there are some events – like New Years, office parties, birthdays or weddings – where it would be amazing to have more than the one yawn-inducing photo I took before the celebrations really got going.

IceCream could be the answer

This is where clever photo app IceCream could prove really, really useful.

Launched in September 2014, IceCream initially only offered users the opportunity to free up memory (by uploading the big nice version of your photos for safekeeping via the cloud, and replacing them with a smaller versions that take up a fraction of the space).

Now the app also runs a new service called Discover.

This lets you see whatever photos might have been taken of you. The photographer doesn’t have to tag you. They don’t even have to upload pictures online.

“We found ourselves missing plenty of photos from a whole pile of experiences for two very big reasons,” IceCream founder, George Berkowski told The Memo.

“Firstly, we keep running out of space to take photos – about 250m people on a weekly basis fill up their smartphones – that’s just depressing and horrible.”

“Secondly, and part of our big mission of never missing another moment, is to allow you to find photos of yourself on other people’s phones.”

“The question of ‘What have you got that I am missing out on?’ is massively important,” he says.

How does IceCream Discover work?

Essentially when you sign up for Discover you give the app permission to go into you phone and take some very specific pieces of information.

These include the exact time and exact location of every photo you take, and where you are at any given point.

The guys at IceCream then combine all of this user data to work out the times you’re in a particular spot where a photo happened to be taken. You’re then invited to send a request to who ever took the pictures to see these photos.

“All the photos on your phone have got location information associated with them,” explains Berkowski. “So we know the time and place they were taken and we also know who took them.”

“Whether it’s just us hanging out and having a drink, whether we’re at a party or whether we’re on holiday together.

“It’s not just my photos that I want, it’s not just my perspective of an event that I want. I want the perspective of people that I know as well. And I want to seamlessly put those pictures all together in one place.”

“Recently I just got married, and half of the people at the wedding had the app,” Berkowski explains.

“Now we’ve got hundreds of photos from a whole pile of different perspectives, that are all organised in one timeline: It doesn’t take up all the space on my phone, it’s available online, and everywhere else. It’s just really handy.”

How does IceCream know who you know?

“We compare upwards of a 100m photos and we’ve got some pretty complex algorithms that figure it out matches based on the relationships,” says Berkowski.

Essentially, you’ll only be alerted to potential photographs of yourself if you are already connected to the photographer – if they are listed in your phone contacts, or if you are Facebook friends, for example.

If you want to see photos from people who you’re not already connected to, you can also add them as a contact on the app itself.

The way the service functions means that it’s up to the person who’s hunting down pictures of themselves to request image access (which the photographer can then accept or decline).

Clicking the accept button may take some effort, but it’s far easier than having uploading all your pictures to Facebook and then ensuring you tag every friend.

“You need to have the app to request photos right now,” says Berkowski, “but you can also request photos from a time when historically you may not have had it, which makes it really easy for you to share stuff.”

IceCream won’t be for everyone

There is, of course, the chance that you could be taking photos on a date, or with a bestie in the pub, and an old bore of a schoolfriend happens to be sitting in the booth behind you.

They could receive a notification about the photos you’ve just taken, realise you’re nearby and launch a unexpected – or unwanted – friendship attack.

If you’re particularly worried about this happening, you are actually able to block or remove contacts.

Some people will also undoubtedly think that the way your location is monitored feels too invasive.

But according to Berkowski your meta data will always remain “100% secure and safe and private”.

“We’re very different from Instagram and so forth, this is not public, this is not social, this is very much more like Whatsapp in terms of private sharing,” he explains.

Not only do you need to log in with your phone number and validate your account via an SMS, but also with a username and a password.

IceCream is also working with Amazon and world class security firm Blackblaze to ensure that every stage of the service is encrypted end-to-end.

Right now, the app is free, but in the coming months the company plans to introduce a small fee for its cloud storage service, charging about $20 a year.

“Services like Google Photos are amazing,” he says, “but they come at a cost. You’re giving away a lot of privacy to a company that will mine your data for ads: do you really want that?”

Perhaps not.

A photo-filled life could be on its way to you soon.