Monday, 9 March 2009

Google Docs Accidentally Shared Private Documents

Update: Google admitted that only 0.05% of documents were shared. Also, my opinion has changed on this matter. Initially I thought this would be a major blow to cloud computing and Google Docs, but this is the first time that I've heard of a security issue with Docs. In the desktop world, "secure" files are always being hacked, accessed by P2P file sharing, taken by hackers, and stolen along with the computer. So, I guess that cloud computing and Google Docs does still rock!!

Well, this was the nasty surprise sitting in my Gmail inbox today from the Google Docs Team:

Dear Google Docs user,

We wanted to let you know about a recent issue with your Google Docs account. We’ve identified and fixed a bug which may have caused you to share some of your documents without your knowledge. This inadvertent sharing was limited to people with whom you, or a collaborator with sharing rights, had previously shared a document. The issue only occurred if you, or a collaborator with sharing rights, selected multiple documents and presentations from the documents list and changed the sharing permissions. This issue affected documents and presentations, but not spreadsheets.

To help remedy this issue, we have used an automated process to remove collaborators and viewers from the documents that we identified as being affected. Since the impacted documents are now accessible only to you, you will need to re-share the documents manually. For your reference, we’ve listed below the documents identified as being affected.

We apologize for the inconvenience that this issue may have caused. We want to assure you that we are treating this issue with the highest priority.

The Google Docs Team

They also put a notice up on the Google Docs blog and information on the Apps Status Dashboard. For my account, it only affected 1 document and it was somewhat minor. But for others it may have been a disaster. Until Google and other vendors get these problems worked out, cloud computing growth will never reach its potential.