Rather disturbing find about Google Docs for those of you that use it!

12 replies
I was doing a bit of digging today as to how to transfer some spreadsheets I created for one of my clients over to them as the owner (to prevent any accidental deletion or other unwanted change to them on my part) and came upon a rather disturbing bit of information about Google Docs.

Did you know that if I know your email address and get a hold of it somehow that I can then create a document of whatever type I please within Google Docs and can then unilaterally, without your consent at all, make you the owner of said document?

Or even share it with you (again where you have no say so in my sharing a document with you).

In both cases said document will appear in your Google Docs list of documents!

In the latter case where I just share it with you, you will not be able to block my sharing of this document with you for as long as you use Google Docs! Unless Google steps in to do something about it which they have a very poor record of doing with respect to Google Doc spamming (which is what this is).

Heaven help those of us who rely on Google Docs if spammers start using this spamming technique en masse.

Instead of sending emails one can now much more effectively spam Google Doc users in a way that they are unlikely to easily find a way around.

Google Docs has no spam filtering in place. All one can do is report a document as spam to Google and hope for the best regarding each such document but if one is receiving many such spam shares reporting each one will quickly become unwieldy.

This is leading me to re-evaluate my use of Google Docs at least as far as how I was looking at using them.

Any thoughts on the above from anyone?

Carlos
#disturbing #docs #find #google
  • Profile picture of the author Spock1
    Well done in finding this glitch. But in so doing you just gave the aforementioned spammers the blue print that you were fearing that they might get.

    A more discreet method might have been to send a note to Google themselves.
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    • Profile picture of the author carlos123
      Originally Posted by Spock1 View Post

      Well done in finding this glitch. But in so doing you just gave the aforementioned spammers the blue print that you were fearing that they might get.

      A more discreet method might have been to send a note to Google themselves.
      Notice that in my post I said that I hope the spammers don't start using this technique en masse not that I hoped that they did not find out about it.

      You can bet your bottom dollar that they know about it already.

      I have read of some folks using Google Docs getting hundreds, I kid you not, spam shares like I described every single day where they have to spend time deleting these documents to be able to even see their own.

      And from reading on the Google help forums there is nothing they can do about it. Google has chosen to leave things as they are for now.

      If this becomes a much bigger problem you can also bet your bottom dollar that Google might be moved to finally do something about this but until that happens heaven help you if you become the brunt of some spammer. Google won't help you much with that it seems.

      Likewise Google is well aware of this problem. The Help forums have tons of posts from people who have become the brunt of Google Doc spamming.

      Again they have chosen to leave things as they are for now.

      Carlos
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  • Profile picture of the author Martin Lee Jr
    Thanks - now I am on my way to closing my Google Docs acct.
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    • Profile picture of the author carlos123
      Originally Posted by mlj2577 View Post

      Thanks - now I am on my way to closing my Google Docs acct.
      I could be wrong about this but I believe the only way to close your Google Docs account is to close your Google Account (which includes everything you use on Google).

      Google is slowly but surely working it's way into being an all encompassing entity that catches you through their free services and then keeps you.

      Did you all know that starting March 1, that Google's privacy policy will also change to allow them, with no opt-out possible, to track everything you do online (in so far as they can through any of their services). This tracking will occur if you leave yourself signed in to Gmail for example and go off to search for things, make calls through Google Voice, or use any other Google service (while signed in).

      I personally have chosen to stop leaving myself signed in as a result and have gone back to using Thunderbird locally to retrieve and notify me of incoming emails through gmail as a result.

      Recently I also read a fictional story that raises serious concerns.

      In this fictional story a man goes through airport customs on coming back to the States from a trip overseas and is asked why he was searching for items on Google that led bomb making ads to appear next to his searches? Or some such. Where the government could not actually, at least legally, view a history of his searches but where a history of which Adwords ads showed up was perfectly legal for them to look at.

      That's the future we are looking at folks!

      As Google beings to track more and more of what we do online their ads will become more and more tailored to exactly what we are interested in. I believe a history of ads shown to our particular searches is public information as far as the government is concerned. If that is indeed the case the story I read is not that far fetched in the near future.

      Just something to consider with respect to all this. I mean people might well say that it's benign and it is, for now. But I envision a world where these types of data mining and gathering and tracking will make such scenarios play out all over the place in ways that we can hardly imagine.

      Carlos
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  • Profile picture of the author MobApps
    WOW. It's a good thing that I don't use that service. Hard to believe that Google wouldn't close that hole?
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    • Profile picture of the author carlos123
      Originally Posted by MobApps View Post

      WOW. It's a good thing that I don't use that service. Hard to believe that Google wouldn't close that hole?
      Here are a couple of links on this type of thing...

      https://groups.google.com/a/googlepr...ts/9uVGaeGxfWs

      Google Docs Spam: Hundreds of Unwanted Documents Showing Up

      In the latter link the author says Google says "Google is working on fixing this issue as soon as possible." Thing is Google was supposedly working as fast as possible to fix this issue back when that article was written...in 2009!

      I know for a fact that I can force sharing of a document that I create with anyone I please (as long as I know their email address) and that said document will then start showing up in that person's list of documents.

      Likewise I can make anyone I please the owner of a document I create through Google Docs (though I think making someone an owner gives them a bit more leeway as to what to do with that document).

      Let's see...what document will I "share" today? Hmm...let's see.

      How about one titled "Do you want to make money online?". Hmm...that's too obvious though it would be put in the face of anyone for as long as I share it with them I guess in their home folder.

      Let's see...how about me sharing a document with you titled "Wanted to share this with you. How I made $100 an hour sharing Google Docs with others". Yeah that's better.

      I mean if I was a spammer and was inclined to do that, which I am not, that's what I would do.

      If this has not happened to you yet...you are fortunate. It could start happening tomorrow and might render your use of Google Docs too troublesome for you to continue using it..

      Carlos
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  • Profile picture of the author adammaxum
    meh, that would suck if it happened to me. Hopefully Google eventually comes up with a solution, especially if it begins getting out of hand. As far as I can tell it's more of an inconvenience more than anything else. Which should still be a priority for Google, but nothing to worry about much for the masses.
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  • Profile picture of the author Money Priest
    I suppose I am fortunate I don't keep much intellectual information that would be truly be valuable to anyone out on Google Docs.
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    • Profile picture of the author carlos123
      Originally Posted by Money Priest View Post

      I suppose I am fortunate I don't keep much intellectual information that would be truly be valuable to anyone out on Google Docs.
      The problem is not that others will or can take your documents. They can't.

      The problem is that others can freely share with you and make you the owner of any document they create if both you and they use Google Docs and they know your email address.

      Carlos
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  • Profile picture of the author Troy_Phillips
    I don't use much of anything from Google except their free search traffic. I am almost sure in time , those of us who choose to not use Google will not have the option of ranking in their search engine.
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    • Profile picture of the author carlos123
      As alarming as my initial find was respecting my continued use of Google Docs I may have inaccurately depicted the nature of the problem.

      It seems and I emphasize seems that Google has indeed done something about the problem.

      In further Google Docs activities between me and a client of mine I was able to remove myself from his sharing of quite a number of documents that he had shared with me but which documents had not had any activity in them in quite some time. I did that with his permission but whether he had given it or not I could still apparently have done that and caused said documents to disappear completely from my list of Docs.

      So I can at least delete the showing of any document shared with me (whether SPAM or not).

      What I cannot however do is prevent someone from sharing a document with me or making me the owner of a document if they know my email address.

      Just thought I would clarify that.

      Carlos
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      • Profile picture of the author carlos123
        Just a further follow up.

        Google has added a few options to their Google Doc context menu that might help negate some of the concerns I raised earlier in this thread.

        They have added an "unsubscribe" option that allows me to unsubscribe from a document as one might unsubscribe from a newsletter causing said document to disappear from my Google Docs.

        And under certain cases, though I am not yet clear on when those cases are particularly, I can delete myself from a document that is owned by another if they have given me privaleges in that document. Without their permission. Which also removes the document from my Golgle Docs.

        But apart from unsubscribing from each document or a set of them at a time I cannot prevent the display of documents that have certain mixes of sharing permissions (which mix I won't say what it is) as set up by the document owner.

        Anyway I think my original concern was based on an even greater inability that Google Doc users used to have apparently with regard to being able to delete and otherwise not receive documents from others.

        I still can't do anything to prevent others from sharing documents with me. All I can do is prevent their display by either removing myself (when I have been given visibility permissions over those documents by the document owner) or unsubscribe from said documents.

        There is no spam filtering in Google Docs to this day which means that if a determined spammer comes at me through the email address I use in my Google Doc's account that the best I can do is keep deleting his documents or unsubscribing from them manually one day at a time until I get tired of doing so and either just ignore the SPAM or quit Google Docs altogether.

        Carlos
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