Google launched the Files by Google app in 2017 to make managing files easier on mobile devices with limited storage. Now the app has been updated to add a secure folder for use on the millions of devices that families share every day.
Files by Google is part of the search giant’s Next Billion Users initiative, which focuses on new products and features for the company’s next billion users (you guessed it). The Files app focuses on freeing up storage space on your mobile device so you can find files faster, share files easily offline, and back up files to the cloud. But feedback from more than 150 million regular users indicates that Files is missing a key feature: the ability to protect private files on shared devices.
Joris van Mens and Pranay Bhatia, both product managers at Next Billion Users, explain in a post on the Google Keywords blog how Files by Google now offers a new feature called Secure Folder. Google has added a folder that can be protected with a PIN and four-digit encryption, allowing one user’s important and private files to be locked before anyone else uses the device. No one can access the folder without a PIN, and it’s automatically locked when the Files app is disabled.
Secure Folder is already in beta and should be available to anyone using the Files app “in the coming weeks”. Google is also keen to point out that Files has achieved impressive storage feats, including removing “over 1 trillion digital clutter files”, saving more than 400 petabytes of storage space on phones, and freeing up an average of 12GB of storage space per second.
The Google Files app, which offers Android users a particularly easy way to manage files and free up storage space on their phones, is getting a new PIN-protected “Secure Folder” feature. After setting a four-digit PIN, you can store all your secret files in this encrypted folder. The folder will be locked when you switch to another application and its contents can only be accessed via Files by Google.
According to Google, this feature is mainly intended to help people who share Android devices, which is common for women in various parts of the world. Secure Folder protects important files like logins from accidental deletion or sharing by children, for example. And yes, it can also help anyone who wants to keep “sensitive photos” private.
Android policy warns that moving files to your safe folder means they will disappear from file browsers and other gallery apps. So, make sure you don’t delete or uninstall the Files app or delete data from the app to avoid losing completely private files. The same goes if you forget your PIN.
Last year Microsoft added a secure OneDrive-like folder called Personal Vault. In addition to PIN protection, you can also protect the files in your Personal Vault with biometric security such as fingerprint or face authentication, or two-factor authentication (2FA) codes. According to XDA-Developers, Microsoft’s implementation also allows you to protect documents in the cloud, while Google only exists on the device.
Google says the Secure Folder feature is available in beta starting today, and AndroidPolice notes that the feature appears in version 1.0.323 of the Files by Google app. Google says the app now has more than 150 million monthly active users worldwide.