Google creates secure file locker for countries where people often share smartphones

Handy service for India and Nigeria, or feature creep that constricts competition?

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Google has added a secure file locker to the "Files" app that it offers as a clean-up service for Android owners, and suggested it as ideal for users who share a smartphone.

Files cleans up seldom-used or unnecessary files on Android smartphones, or makes suggestions about sending them to the cloud to save storage space on a device. Google aimed the app at users in the developing world, suggesting that they're likely to own lower-end devices that don't have huge storage capacity and would therefore benefit from frequent clear-outs.

Now the company has added a secure file locker to the app because "in many places around the world, sharing a personal device with spouses, siblings or children is often a cultural expectation, especially for women."

Google has outlined scenarios such as users who worry that kids will fat-finger files into oblivion when they use a shared phone for homework, or about the risks of storing personal identity documents on a shared device.

Providing such users with a little extra security is hard to criticise.

But Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple were last week criticised for adding features or products that smaller rivals already offer, and the Google Play store contains plenty of file locker applications.

Perhaps users in India, Nigeria, and Brazil – the three nations Google says were the target market for Files – struggle to access the Play Store. Which would make Files both useful and, as Google apps are often pre-installed on handsets, also again demonstrate the ad giant's position of power. ®

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