How to Lock Sensitive Photos on iPhone and Android

Sometimes you want to take a picture just for yourself. Maybe it’s a particularly, uh, personal selfie, or maybe it’s the cues for a top-secret party in the woods. Among the niftiest new features in iOS 16 is a welcome little addition: biometric locks on hidden and deleted albums. It’s a small thing, but it makes the hidden folder much safer for storing photos, and it comes close to Android’s (still superior) locked folder feature. Now is a good time to find out how these two features work, as well as some of the other privacy tools that Apple and Google have integrated into their respective photo apps.

Configure and get to know your locked and hidden folders

At a glance, locked folders on Android and hidden albums on iOS are the same. Both allow you to create a folder where you must authenticate with a fingerprint or your face to view the contents.

But Android’s implementation of Locked Folders, which should be available on most Android phones running at least Android 12, is much better than Apple’s Hidden Album. The reason is simple: the photos you place in your locked folder are not uploaded to Google Photos. They stay on your device.

In contrast, photos you add to the hidden folder on iOS sync with anything you sync with Apple Photos. That’s unfortunate for iPhone owners, because if you want to keep those photos locked, you probably don’t want them online, no matter how safe the online storage is. But a locked folder is still a step up from nothing.

Luckily, in either case, the photos you include in these special folders won’t show up in any of the various AI-generated memories, albums, or anything else, so in addition to storing private photos, these Folders are also a good place to put anything you don’t want to accidentally appear on your Apple TV screensaver, for example, or in a widget on your phone’s home screen. Here’s how to configure both.

android

Open the Google Photos app and tap Library > Utilities > Configure Locked Folder. Follow the onscreen instructions and add photos to this album. If you want to add more photos later, you can either return to this screen or open a photo, tap the three-dot icon, then tap Move to locked folder.

iPhone

The ability to lock hidden and deleted albums should be enabled by default on your iPhone, but if it’s not enabled for some reason, go to Settings > Photos and select the Use Face (or Touch) ID option in the “Hidden and deleted albums” section. To add photos to the hidden album, tap a photo, tap the three-dot icon, then tap To hide.

How to get rid of (or at least modify) memory albums

Photo apps are constantly shuffling algorithmic albums, whether it’s “Snow Days” or “Great Outdoors” or a collection of selfie photos. These can be a fun trip down memory lane in some cases, or they can trigger a series of unwanted memories in others. You can somehow arrange these apps to behave more to your liking or just disable these types of generated albums altogether if they bother you.

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  • Hide people, pets or dates: Open the Google Photos app, then tap your user icon, then tap Photo Settings > Memories. Here you can choose to select people or animals that you don’t want to appear in memories or select specific dates that you don’t want.
  • Disable memories: In the same menu as above, tap Featured Memories and disable Time based memories Where Thematic memories to prevent either of these types from appearing at all.
  • Use the Archive to hide photos you want to keep but don’t need to see: Google Photos has a handy archive feature for photos that you don’t want to be deleted and locked behind a password, but also want to keep away. Select a photo, tap the three-dot icon, then choose Archiveand that photo will no longer appear in movies or in your main album.

iPhone

  • Block specific memories: Open the Photos app and go to For you tongue. On any memory, you can tap the three-dot icon, followed by Delete memory, to delete this memory (this action does not delete any photos included in the album). You can also touch Show less… to have the option of featuring specific days or people in the album less often.
  • Prevent people from appearing in Memories: The method above may work to prevent people from appearing in albums, but it’s easier to navigate to the Albums tab then scroll down to People and places. Tap any person, then the three-dot icon, followed by Characteristic [person] Less. You can then choose to feature that person less in memories or never feature them.
  • Disable Memories completely: If the whole automatic album thing just isn’t for you, it’s easy to turn it off. Open Settings > Photos and disable View Featured Content.

Check who you’ve shared photos with

If you’ve shared photos with family members, friends, or publicly in the past, now is a good time to review those photos and revoke access to anything you no longer want to share.

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Google Photos has plenty of ways to share photos, and it’s a good idea to go back every once in a while to make sure you’re not sharing anything you didn’t want. Press the Share then delete individual photos or albums that you no longer want to share. To do this, tap the album or photo, the three-dot icon, then Choiceand disable Link sharing. If you’ve ever shared photos with a partner before using the feature that automatically shares each photo or photos with specific faces, now is a good time to check that you still want to do so.

iPhone

Open the Photos app and select the Albums tongue. Scroll to Shared albums to see what you’ve shared. You can delete the album or delete specific people by tapping the three-dot icon followed by Shared album details > [person’s name] > Delete subscriber. Keep that same process in mind once the shared photo library launches later this year as well.

A privacy tip: check your photo permissions

Managing the photos app itself is already a part-time job, but don’t forget about the photos-related permissions other apps have. It’s a good idea to recheck this setting occasionally to make sure no app has access to more photos than you want.

  • Android: Open Settings > Privacy > Permissions Manager > Photos & Videos. Scroll through the list of apps and change the settings you don’t like.
  • iPhone: Open Settings > Privacy & Security > Photos and scroll down the list of apps and revoke access to any apps that don’t need it.

Other privacy news we are monitoring

💸 The past month has seen data breaches and hacks galore. The most publicized breach affected Uber, but we can’t forget U-Haul, 2K Games, LAUSD, American Airlines or LastPass. As always, keep an eye on your email for any data breach notifications, monitor your accounts, and change any passwords that may have been affected. If you can, set up two-factor authentication on one of these accounts. If you have children attending a LAUSD school (or any school affected by a ransomware attack), consider freezing their credit.

🩹Many fixes have been released in the last month. Make sure to update your iPhone (even if you don’t update to iOS 16) because Apple recently patched a big security hole. The same goes for Android, which has a minor flaw; Google Chrome, which fixed 11 vulnerabilities; and WhatsApp, which fixed two issues. Microsoft Windows is taking the lead this month, however, after the latest patch covered 64 vulnerabilities (up from 141 in August). Finally, if you have an HP laptop with HP Support Assistant installed, update it now, as the patch resolves a very serious issue that could provide privileged access to an attacker. However, this vulnerability seems to only affect older laptops. we noted that our Specter x360 was already running an updated version of the software. As always, run these automatic updates as soon as possible.

🔎 Google is improving its tool that allows you to request that your personal information be removed from search. It used to be that you had to go through a series of hoops and fill out multiple forms if a result showed personal information like your phone number or address, but soon you’ll be able to make a request directly from the Google search app. Even better, next year you might even get alerts when that personal information pops up to begin with.

This article was edited by Jason Chen.

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