Stingle is a privacy-focused, open source photo backup application

Enlarge / Regardless of the encryption, Stingle Photographs is a distinctly minimalist app which comes nearer to the easy really feel of an analog album than most of its rivals do.

With Google Photographs killing off its Limitless photograph backup coverage final November, the marketplace for photograph backup and sync functions opened up significantly. We reviewed one robust contender—Amazon Photographs—in January, and freelancer Alex Kretzschmar walked us by way of a number of self-hosted alternatives in June.

Immediately, we’re a brand new contender—Stingle Photos—which splits the distinction, providing a FOSS cell utility which syncs to a managed cloud.

Belief nobody

Arguably, encryption is Stingle Photographs’ most necessary function. Though the app uploads your photographs to Stingle’s cloud service, the service’s operators cannot take a look at your photographs. That is as a result of the app, which runs in your telephone or pill, encrypts them securely utilizing Sodium cryptography.

Because the photographs are encrypted earlier than ever leaving your telephone—utilizing a key that is not ever accessible to Stingle’s operators—you are secure from attackers getting a photograph dump from Stingle’s cloud. You are additionally secure from Stingle’s personal operators pulling a LOVEINT on you or getting socially engineered by somebody with a plausible voice begging to get your photographs again.

Since Stingle cannot do something helpful with the encrypted cloud backups of your photographs, you additionally need not fear about unusual issues taking place on account of your photographs being fed to machine-learning algorithms—they’re simply rubbish bits, to anybody with out your non-public key.


Stingle has gone out of its technique to make the best way it really works as clear as potential to security- and privacy-focused customers. The corporate put out an in depth white paper outlining its safety practices and giving a superb overview as to how the service works. And for the actually paranoid, entry to the applying’s source code closes the hole the remainder of the best way.

Getting access to the supply code particularly helps shut potential loopholes in what Stingle can and might’t do together with your photographs. Because the cloud storage is successfully ineffective to anybody however the consumer, that leaves the cell app itself as the one place to stand up to any chicanery, earlier than the photographs are encrypted and despatched to the cloud (or after they’re downloaded and decrypted).

We didn’t try something like a full code audit of the Stingle Photographs app, however we did stroll by way of the code far sufficient to have a good suggestion of what it is doing and the way. No obviously apparent gotchas leapt out at us.

Key backup

By default, Stingle Photographs uploads a backup of the consumer’s non-public key to the Stingle cloud (which is hosted redundantly at Digital Ocean, utilizing redundant Wasabi buckets). This permits the app to perform on a brand new machine with out the consumer having to manually and cumbersomely again up and restore the non-public key themselves.

Astute customers’ eyebrows probably simply shot by way of the roof—if Stingle has my non-public key, how do I do know the corporate is not utilizing it? The reply is that the hot button is additionally encrypted, earlier than bundling it up and sending it to the cloud for backup.

That is an extraordinarily simplified overview of how the strategy works:

  • Person creates a brand new Stingle account, specifying a password or passphrase
  • Stingle Photographs hashes the password or passphrase domestically and uploads the hash to the again finish
  • Stingle Photographs generates private and non-private keys derived from the consumer’s password
  • Stingle Photographs bundles up the pubkey and privkey, then it encrypts the bundle utilizing the consumer’s full password or passphrase
  • Stingle Photographs uploads the encrypted key bundle to the cloud for backup

We’re leaving out a good quantity of the furry particulars, corresponding to particular algorithms, salts, and so forth— and crypto-fluent of us ought to try the unique white paper to see the bits we ignored within the identify of readability right here.

The important thing right here is that Stingle by no means has entry to the consumer’s actual password or passphrase in any respect—solely a hash of it. Because the consumer authenticates themselves utilizing the hash however wants the complete password—not simply its hash—to decrypt the important thing bundle, the important thing bundle is subsequently secure to retailer remotely.

If the consumer elects not to again up the important thing bundle, they as a substitute must again up their non-public key themselves—which Stingle delivers within the type of a 24-word Diceware-style passphrase. After putting in the Stingle app on a second machine, the consumer would then must manually import the “backup phrase”—which is actually their non-public key—onto the second machine.

However, if the consumer permits Stingle Photographs to again up the important thing bundle, they solely want their password to entry photographs on a second machine. After logging in, the second machine downloads the encrypted key bundle, decrypts it with the consumer’s full password or passphrase (which, bear in mind, by no means leaves the machine) and the whole lot’s immediately able to go.

Stingle Photographs additionally helps non-compulsory biometric authentication—if you need entry to your backed-up photographs and movies with out having to kind in a passphrase each time, you may enroll your fingerprint and use it to unlock the app extra rapidly.

Options and Platforms

We examined Stingle Photographs on two Android units, a Pixel 2XL and a Huawei MediaPad M5 Professional. Assist for iPhones and iPads is on the best way however has not arrived but—together with help for Linux, Home windows, and Mac PCs.

The app takes a really totally different strategy than Google Photographs, Amazon Photographs, or Apple Photographs. All three of the tech giants’ apps attempt to supply the whole lot beneath the Solar: machine studying to categorize photographs and type them into galleries and albums, print- and swag-creation providers, and extra.

Stingle Photographs is stark and minimalist by comparability. It imports photographs (routinely or manually, on the consumer’s discretion), syncs them, and means that you can arrange them into albums. That is just about it, other than the everyday Android “sharing” choices which dump a (decrypted) photograph into one other app immediately. We shared, for instance, one photograph by way of the Textra SMS app by tapping the share icon for that photograph then deciding on a Textra contact.

When importing photographs both routinely or manually, Stingle affords the choice to delete them after efficiently importing them. In the event you flip automated deletion on, you make sure that a telephone thief cannot thumb by way of your photographs, even when they unlock the telephone itself—nevertheless it does imply Stingle is now not a “backup.” As an alternative, auto-deletion turns Stingle into the only real repository to your photographs, with all misplaced if Stingle is misplaced.

No internet shopper is out there for Stingle Photographs. So for proper now, you may want an Android machine to view any Stingle-stored photographs. Since an online shopper is not wherever on Stingle’s printed roadmap, we count on that at the same time as Home windows, Linux, and Mac purchasers change into accessible, you may nonetheless want to put in an utility to view photographs—not simply log into an internet site together with your favourite browser.

Though we have referred largely to photographs, Stingle Photographs manages movies and photographs interchangeably—identical to most different cell digicam and backup apps do.

Cloud-storage pricing

The Stingle Photographs app is free—as is your first 1GiB of cloud storage. Stingle’s enterprise mannequin revolves round those that want greater than that first gibibyte of storage—which we’re pretty assured means “everybody” now, particularly since Stingle shops your photographs and movies at full decision. There is not even an choice to downsample earlier than encryption and importing—the media you retailer domestically is the media you are backing up, interval.

The primary paid tier is 100GiB, for which you may pay $2.99 monthly—or you may pay $29.90 for a 12 months up entrance, saving your self the price of two months. 300GiB prices $4.99/mo, 1TiB prices $11.99/mo, and 3TiB prices $35.99/mo, with the identical two-months-free financial savings for upfront annual purchases. (Bigger plans are additionally accessible for many who want them.)

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