'Files by Google' Adds 'Safe Folder' So Users Can Encrypt Their Sensitive Files

Safe Folder

Everyone has secrets. But not everyone can put their secrets only inside their head.

With many people writing down, or storing sensitive files inside their mobile devices, tech companies sees this as a demand. This is especially true, since more and more people are using smartphones are their daily 'personal' device they expect can do almost everything.

Many phone manufacturers have shipped their phones with a dedicated File Manager apps, and also specialized apps that are capable of encrypting the content of the phone.

And here, Google also wants that market, with an app it calls 'Files by Google'.

The app was originally made for Android Go devices (Files Go), made for the "Next Billion Users" in developing countries with different usage patterns and priorities.

The app's primary function is to allow Android users manage their files, and free up space on their phone.

In other words, the app has been largely used by users to clear up unwanted files, not store new ones.

But with an update, Google introduces a 'Safe Folder' feature, which encrypts files and protect them using a four-digit PIN.

Files by Google

Available on version 1.0.323 of the app, users can find this feature under Collections.

To use it, users must first set it up by creating a PIN. After that, they can start moving the files they want to the folder. After that, users will be asked to verify the PIN again, with the app reminding the users that duplicates or backups might exist in other locations on their device.

When all is finished, the files inside are protected from anyone that doesn't have the four-digit PIN.

Google claims that the folder is locked as soon as users switch away from the app. This is a security feature that prevents the app from running in the background, in order to prevent others from picking up the device and start looking at the app.

To view the private files, users can simply tap on the Safe folder, to then enter the four-digit PIN.

Once inside, users access and see each stored item, and can move them out of the secure folder whenever they want. If so, the app will return the files to their original location.

It should be noted that each stored file can take longer than usual to open. Video playback is also a bit choppy. This is normal because opening each item requires the app to decrypt the file for viewing.

What users need to know is that, if they forget the four-digit PIN, they won't be able to recover the files there.

And if users lose or change the device where the files are stored, they won't get access to the files in the new device they are buying, simply because the files cannot be transferred once encrypted inside the secure folder, and are not backed up to the cloud.

Manually clearing the app's data or uninstalling the app also means that users will lose all the files inside the folder.

Safe Folder, remember PIN

Google said that the feature is primarily aimed at users in cultures where device sharing is common.

“In many places around the world, sharing a personal device with spouses, siblings or children is often a cultural expectation, especially for women,” said a Google blog post. “Sharing a device can be beneficial, but it comes with the risk that others might access your personal files.”

For cultures where device sharing is not common, the feature should also come in handy.

With a lockable folder for sensitive files, users can prevent their children from accidentally accessing the files, or deleting them, when parents hand them the phone to play games, for example.

Files by Google had a roller-coaster kind of life. First introduced 2017, it was spotted developing the encryption feature back in June, but two weeks later, Google seemed to abandon the project before it went live for anyone.

But with Google finally releasing the app with the Safe Folder feature, Google is giving the project a chance to show its teeth, especially as Google boasted that it already has more than 150 million users.

Google is far from the first company to offer such a feature.