New Google Pixel Feature Lets You Lock Away Your Private Photos

New Google Pixel Feature Lets You Lock Away Your Private Photos
The new Pixel drop includes Pride-themed wallpapers. (Photo: Florence Ion/Gizmodo)

The new Locked Folder in Google Photos, which the company debuted at its developer conference last month, is officially rolling out today. It’s part of the latest feature drop for Pixel users, which includes a new way to take a video of the night sky, plus better copy and paste in Gboard and a Digital Wellbeing mode that keeps your eyes on the footpath.

The Locked Folder lets you store any pictures you want to hide behind a localised lock-and-key. This includes things like restaurant receipts, identification cards, and maybe your neighbour’s flesh-coloured Shelby Cobra that you can’t seem to stop imagining yourself driving around town (just me?). You can manually move the photos you want to be stored to the Locked Folder or set your camera app to save them there. Any photos filed away won’t show up in shared albums, Memories, or any apps on your device that require album access. Any time you want to access the photos, you’ll have to use your device passcode or fingerprint.

You can select photos to be filed to the Locked Folder directly from the Camera app.  (Gif: Google) You can select photos to be filed to the Locked Folder directly from the Camera app. (Gif: Google)

There are caveats to using the Locked Folder. Per the official support page, you can move photos out of the Locked Folder and permanently delete them. But you can’t edit or share them or send them to the trash. You can’t add them to a photo book either, or share those items to external apps like Instagram or Facebook. They won’t show up on smart displays like the Nest Hub or through the Chromecast. You also can’t back up any items, which is a major bummer considering similar apps like Samsung Secure Folder back up that data in an encrypted setting.

The Locked Folder seemed like it would be the kind of feature where you could upload precious memories and not necessarily interact with the Photos cloud. But photos placed in the Locked Photos folder are stored in the Google Photos app library, under Utilities.

Google is also pushing out other features, including Pride wallpapers, the ability to answer your phone with a voice command via the Google Assistant, and an update to Gboard that makes phone numbers, email addresses, and links easily accessible in the clipboard. There’s also a new Heads Up mode in Digital Wellbeing, which pings you to check your surroundings as you’re walking and using your phone. This will be an especially appreciated feature as people start commuting back to an office and resume attempting to multitask while getting to work.

Lastly, Google is enabling a new astrophotography effect, exclusive to Pixel 4 users and up. Night Sight will spit out both photo and video when you shoot a long exposure of the starry sky. It’ll require that you hold the phone perfectly still, however, lest you get even blurrier stars.

The rest of the new features are currently rolling out to Pixel 3 devices and up.