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Google Photos on iOS now lets you lock your sensitive snaps away

A man browsing photos on an iPhone (Cottonbro studio / Pexels)
A man browsing photos on an iPhone (Cottonbro studio / Pexels)

Back in 2021, Google unveiled a rather useful feature for those who like to take intimate photos or videos, but don’t want the whole world to know about it.

Locked Folder allows Google Photos users to keep private photos away from prying eyes by keeping them in a folder that requires a passcode or biometric authentication to access.

Not only that, but it ensures these locked photographs, videos and screenshots won’t appear in your photo feed, or be accessible to other apps, preventing them from popping up at inopportune moments.

It started life as a Pixel phone exclusive, before rolling out to other Android devices later that year.

Now, two years on, the feature is expanding to iPhone and web users. And it has arrived with the option to back up the locked folders, so that access to the encrypted images and videos is available across multiple devices via Google’s cloud.

While Google has never suggested that people use Locked Folder for nude photos, that was quickly assumed to be the main purpose for customers upon release, given the rise in sexting.

Indeed, coming up with alternative uses for the feature is actually rather tricky, though Google executive Jen Fitzpatrick gamely tried upon the feature’s launch in 2021.

“This feature would’ve been helpful for me last year when we surprised our kids with a new puppy, and we needed to hide the photos before we brought Splash home,” she said at the time.

For non-puppy-based uses, you may want reassurances that security precautions are in place if you use the optional cross-device backup.

Google says they are. “We protect this data with multiple layers of security, including leading encryption technology like HTTPS and encryption at rest,” company spokesman Michael Marconi told The Verge.

If you choose not to use the cloud backup options, photos will be saved in a locked folder locally on the device itself. However, this means, if your device is stolen, the files are lost forever — even if the thief won’t be able to access them.