Back in June, we spotted Google’s Files app working on a password-protected “Safe Folder.” This feature is now rolling out in beta, while the company reports 150 million monthly users.

Files by Google — originally Files Go — started out as an app primarily for the “Next Billion Users” in developing countries with different usage patterns and priorities. The Safe Folder feature reflects how devices “in many places around the world” are shared due to a “cultural expectation.” 

As part of Google’s research, we hear the perspectives of people like Shaina—a woman in Bangladesh whose children use her phone after school, both to learn and to play. Shaina worries that her important files could be accidentally shared or deleted. For Rashid, a father in India, the lack of privacy means he can’t keep his identity documents on his phone, even if he needs them for job applications. 

There are some risks to this model, which is why Google created a “secure, 4-digit PIN-encrypted folder” meant for storing important documents. Appearing at the bottom of the Browse tab, you can change the code at any time in settings.

Once inside, users cannot take screenshots, just like when browsing with Incognito Mode in Chrome. The company does warn that “backups and duplicates may still be available in other apps.”

The folder is securely locked as soon as you switch away from the Files app, so none of its contents can be accessed when the app is in the background. As a security assurance, it will ask for your PIN again on reentry.

The Safe Folder in Files by Google is rolling out to the beta channel now and will be more widely available in the coming weeks.

The company today reported that “more than 150 million people around the world regularly use Files each month.” It hit 500 million Play Store installs in late May. Usage highlights since 2017 include 1 trillion deleted files, 12GB freed every second, and over 400 petabytes of saved storage.

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About the Author

Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: