Google Drive is HIPAA compliant, provided that you follow their guidelines, and while Google did recently release their own VPN, that still doesn’t replace the desire for users to have the ability to encrypt and decrypt their sensitive documents for their peace of mind. This can be achieved with third-party add-ons, but it’s just not as good as a native solution. In my previous role, I’ve long since had customers ask me if there was a way to encrypt Google Sheets, for example, and I’ve had to disappoint them. That may be changing soon though, as Google appears to be preparing a way to do just that.
First found by XDA Developers in their APK teardown of the app, the potential update is not a guarantee, but it’s still interesting to see that Google is thinking about these things. You can see in the strings of code below that it says “You’ll be able to open encrypted files soon”, “Download and decrypt” and so on, pointing to a fully integrated, native Google-based encryption and decryption feature for Drive users. Thanks to a recent tweet by Alessandro Paluzzi, an Android developer, this may only be possible with files marked as ‘available offline’ in your Drive. In addition, if you change the setting for whether or not a file is encrypted, any copies of it that remain on your device will be deleted automatically. While you can’t currently open encrypted files in Google Drive, this may soon be possible too, but only time will tell!
IMPORTANT: Keep in mind that should you choose to open and decrypt a local file via Google Drive, it will be passing through Google’s hands since they would be the ones providing the feature.Disclaimer
<string name="dialog_download_and_decrypt_button">Download and decrypt</string> <string name="dialog_download_and_decrypt_message">Download this file to view it</string> <string name="dialog_download_and_decrypt_title">"Can't open file"</string> <string name="dialog_editor_file_encrypted_message">"You'll be able to open encrypted files soon"</string> <string name="dialog_editor_file_encrypted_title">Upcoming feature</string> <string name="action_card_download_and_decrypt">Download and decrypt</string>
Until file encryption and decryption becomes a reality in Google Drive (and even after), I recommend that you use a strong password for your account, enable two-step verification, and always use a lock screen pin or passcode on all of your devices. It’s common for users to be frustrated by the hindrances that these protections may bring about, but because our data is our most valuable asset, I highly suggest more thoughtful consideration of digital safety practices. There’s currently no mention of file encryption coming to Drive for the web, so when and if this feature drops, Chromebook users will have to make use of the Drive app until further notice.