How to share personal files privately online

Keep it secret, keep it safe

The ubiquity of social networks such as Twitter and Facebook means that not only is it easy to share whatever news and updates we want to with the entire world, but that for many there's a bit of a tendency to overshare.

This can be a problem, both for those sharing – since it can have some privacy implications for them, their family or others in their care – and for people who follow them. We all know the hell that is the relentless deluge of vapid updates and barely distinguishable photos from new parents that clog up Facebook!

Happily, we can solve both problems in this tutorial, highlighting techniques and services that make it easy for you to share this news in a way that not only safeguards privacy but also that keeps the updates from overwhelming those friends, acquaintances and distant relatives who aren't that interested.

Throughout, we'll be using the common example of sharing photos, videos and more to keep people up to date with the progress of a new baby, but in most cases the fundamental techniques we show can be used for a whole range of things – updates from a five-a-side football league, photos from a playgroup, or a big home renovation project, say – basically, anything that you want only a hand-picked group of people to see, either because it involves children (or others whose identities you want to protect) or because you know most people won't be interested.

You can also quickly share the photos your store on your mobile device by screencasting to a Chromecast or similar device, which will display your photos on your TV. Check out our video to find out how to get started.

There are more methods for sharing files securely than the few we highlight here – and if they work for you, great – but in choosing which to walk you through here, we've concentrated on two things. First, they had to be easy to use, not just for you in sharing things, but also for people you're sharing them with.

This is particularly important because, especially with a new baby, you'll probably want to share with some people who are aren't as confident with technology as you, so you need to reduce that friction as much as possible.

Second, we wanted services that, for the most part, are either platform-agnostic, or which have apps for a broad range of platforms, since it's likely you'll be sharing with people who use Android and Windows as well as iOS and OS X.

By invitation only

Our favourite of the ways we've found to enable all this is 23snaps. You can see a step-by-step tutorial on using this free service later on in this guide. Although this means it's not best suited to other kinds of sharing, its focus on exactly the things you want when sharing news of a baby make it perfect for that purpose.

With its support for photos, videos, measurements, status updates and the concept of families built-in, you can think of it basically as a kind of Facebook clone built specifically for sharing baby news!

How to share personal files privately online

The fine-grained control Facebook gives you over who sees your posts is actually pretty sophisticated

Facebook itself, of course, can be used for this sort of thing, and it's actually really good at it. The trick is to make use of the different levels of visibility Facebook offers you for every post that you make. While for most of us, the default options – Public or Friends only – cover what we need, you can create as many dedicated lists as you want of specific Facebook contacts.

Create one called 'Baby news', for example, adding only those people you want to share this stuff with, and then when you choose that list from the 'Who should see this?' drop-down at the bottom-right of the compose area, only those people you've added will see it – and only they will see any activity that happens on it, and they may not share it further.

You create lists by placing the pointer over Friends on the left of your News Feed and clicking the More link that appears. Also note that Facebook allows you to create events, such as for a new arrival, and their visibility can also be limited to specific lists.

Remember that you can apply different permissions to different posts and photos, so you might post an announcement of a new birth to all your friends, significant events to 'Baby news', and an unfiltered torrent of baby updates to another group called Grandparents.

You can change the level of permissions after you post too, if you change your mind about who should see it. Note, however, that if you want to apply any sort of privacy at all on Facebook, the people you want to share with will need to have a Facebook account, which might rule out this option for some relatives.