Several Google Docs users found that they were locked out of their files for violating the terms of service, but after looking into it, Google chalked it up to a glitch and swiftly rolled out a fix.
The problem is, it raises the issue of whether or not users' documents are kept secure and private when in the cloud.
Locked Google Docs Files
According to numerous reports, the glitch affected a wide range of topics. For instance, National Geographic wildlife crime reporter Rachael Bale had her piece "frozen."
Has anyone had @googledocs lock you out of a doc before? My draft of a story about wildlife crime was just frozen for violating their TOS.
— Rachael Bale (@Rachael_Bale) October 31, 2017
Others such as editor and publisher of Jacobin magazine Bhaskar Sunkara also got locked out of his document concerning eastern European post-socialist parties.
Tfw your finalizing a piece on E. Europe post-socialist parties in Google Drive and Google removes it because it's in violation of its ToS?? — Bhaskar Sunkara (@sunraysunray) October 31, 2017
The James Hutton Institute computational biologist and bioinformatician Leighton Pritchard gave an example of the issue's severity, saying that it's definitely off-putting.
Yep. I can't trust @googledocs, any more. If this was the day before a grant submission, it could literally cost us £100k+
— Leighton Pumpkin (@widdowquinn) October 31, 2017
Even Runescape players have reported that they have been barred from their Docs file on Reddit.
In response, Google representative Corrie Davidson confirmed to Bale that the team behind Docs is well-aware of the issue and is working on a fix. At that, Google Community Manager Julianne Niemaszyk posted an explanation of what happened and assured users that they can access their documents again on the Google Product Forums.
"[T]his morning, we made a code push that incorrectly flagged a small percentage of Google Docs as abusive, which caused those documents to be automatically blocked. A fix is in place and all users should have full access to their docs. Protecting users from viruses, malware, and other abusive content is central to user safety," Niemaszyk writes.
Matters Of Privacy
In the wake of the Docs hubbub, it's only natural for users to be wary of their privacy in the cloud, especially regarding sensitive files.
As evidence to that, Bale called the service's monitoring "creepy."
However, Google says that it doesn't exactly read files per se. It has an automated system that can detect forms of abuse in documents, which doesn't really comprehend the meaning of content it scans (via Washington Post).
In short, Docs locking out users from their important files whipped them into a frenzy of sorts, but Google did quickly provide a solution. Still, while the company made it clear that it doesn't really read the content of the documents, the issue underlined how privacy is regarded in such cloud services.
Docs is deemed to be one of the best word processors for real-time collaboration that lets teams finish documents efficiently with editing, sharing, and commenting features.