Although “privacy” has several definitions, it’s generally understood to be a person’s right to control access to their personal information. On the internet, the desire for privacy remains true across all users, even as privacy can mean very different things to different people.

For the EIUs, it could mean protecting themselves against data breaches, ransomware, or hackers. For NIUs, it could present more analog concerns. In many NBU countries, for example, sharing a smartphone with spouses, siblings, or children is often a cultural expectation, especially for women. (See Women). But it comes with the risk that others might access their personal information, search histories or files. In another example, NIUs often rely on family or friends to help them perform online tasks, which can include private and sensitive tasks like paying bills and creating accounts. NIUs who use voice tools to listen to online content or communicate with friends and family may also face privacy issues because they’re constantly surrounded by other people who might overhear them.


Files, a file management app by Google, has a function named Safe Folder, which was specifically built to address the privacy needs of the NBUs, many of whom use a shared smartphone. Safe Folder is a secure, 4-digit PIN-encrypted folder that protects a user’s important documents, images, videos, and audio files from being opened by others, especially on a shared mobile device. The folder is securely locked as soon as the user switches away from the Files app, so none of its contents can be accessed when the app is in the background. Today, even people who don’t share devices can benefit from keeping their most important files private and safe through Safe Folder.

Incognito Mode

Incognito Mode in Google Go, which enables people to search the internet without their searches being saved to their account or their device, is a tool that is designed for the NBUs who often use shared smartphones. This mode, first launched in India, allows users to keep their search experience – whether researching a gift or browsing the web for personal topics like health and finance – separate from others who use the same mobile device, providing them with an added level of privacy.

Google’s mission – to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful – has always compelled us to take the same approach to privacy. This means that privacy cannot be a luxury offered only to people who can afford to buy premium products and services. It must be equally available to everyone in the world, as said by Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai in a 2019 New York Times article.

Even in cases where we have a paid product like YouTube Premium (which includes an ads-free experience), the regular version of YouTube has several privacy controls built in for users, such as Incognito Mode, which lets users browse YouTube without their searches or activity being linked to their account. As we continue to invest in privacy-preserving technologies, we make sure to provide users with simple, accessible ways to decide what personal information is shared, saved, or deleted.

Given the diverse and delicate privacy challenges faced by NIUs, creators of digital technologies must tackle them with innovative, tailor-made solutions that align with local sociocultural values such as sharing and openness – rather than solutions that are designed in accordance with just the organization’s values or a one-size-fits-all approach. Organizations that make the effort to address NIUs’ privacy pain points will build trust among the NIUs and give them the peace of mind to continue using their products.


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