Google Docs security: it's free, what do you expect?

Google has fixed a security problem on Google Docs that caused users to share documents inadvertently.

The company said the issue affected 0.05% of...

Google has fixed a security problem on Google Docs that caused users to share documents inadvertently.

The company said the issue affected 0.05% of all documents.

Jennifer Mazzon, Google Docs product manager, said in a blog posting, "We have identified and fixed a bug where a very small percentage of users shared some of their documents inadvertently. The inadvertent sharing was limited to people with whom the document owner, or a collaborator with sharing rights, had previously shared a document. The issue affected so few users because it only could have occurred for a very small percentage of documents, and for those documents only when a specific sequence of user actions took place."

Google said the bug occurred when the document owner, or a collaborator with sharing rights, selected multiple documents and presentations from the documents list and then changed the sharing permissions.

Google has now run an automated process to remove collaborators and viewers from the documents that it identified as having been affected. "We then e-mailed the document owners to point them to their affected documents in case they need to re-share them," Mazzon said.

One user who appears to have been affected, said on the Google support forum, "One day everyone had been removed from my collaborator list on a widely shared document. This was a huge inconvenience. How could this have happened?"

Industry experts said the issue highlights the problem with using free services on the internet. "You get what you pay for. It's like saying someone gave me a car and the first time I took it to the garage I had a £1,000 service," said Clive Longbottom, service director, business process analysis at Quocirca. "If you can put up with the issues, Google Docs a perfectly good tool."

However he warned that if users believe the application is offering some intrinsic value to their business, they need to seriously consider running it in-house, or pay a service provider to offer a contract with an SLA.

For the future, Longbottom said Google could offer a premium service with extra security and service levels. He said, "You can't expect commercial levels of security when you are not paying for the software."

Interestingly, Capgemini offers support for Google.

Read more on Hackers and cybercrime prevention

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