At the end of October, several users reported being locked out of their own documents in Google Docs for unknown reasons, but Google is clarifying those now.
After attempting to open their documents as they typically do, some users got a bit of a surprise when they saw a message saying they've been banned from accessing the files after "violating Google's terms of service."
Why People Were Locked Out Of Google Docs
Later, Google sent out a fix and confirmed that the lockout was merely the result of wrong code that mistakenly tagged some documents as abusive. Google implements automatic digital security mechanisms for files on Google Docs and Google Drive, which protect users from vulnerabilities such as malware and viruses — but these were mistakenly activated thanks to flaw in Google's code.
Everything is good now. But in a new blog post, Google explains a bit further about what happened. So here's the rub: Google's automatic security system detects files that have viruses and prevent users from opening them. A flaw in the code triggered this system by mistake, resulting in false alarms.
"The Google Docs and Drive products have unparalleled automatic, preventive security precautions in place to protect our users from malware, phishing and spam, using both static and dynamic antivirus techniques," said Google.
As soon as the team discovered the problem, Google promptly removed the bug and restored users' access to locked files.
The Great Thing About Google Docs
Though inconvenient, the lockout gave some users a chance to see how much they relied on Google's services.
Google Docs is just like any word processor out there, but because it's cloud-based, everything is saved and stored constantly, and users can even track the changes throughout the creation of a document.
But the greatest thing about it is automatic saving. Suppose a blackout occurs, or the computer shuts down for no apparent reason — no worries. Whatever a user was working on is all backed up in the cloud, ready to be accessed at any time. And because it's in the cloud instead of stored locally, users can type up a document from their home, move to a coffee shop, go online, and continue working from there. It's an insanely convenient, seamless, and intuitive ecosystem, and one can only imagine how much damage even a brief lockout would cause.
Thankfully, it's all good now. The bug has been removed from the code and files are accessible again. But as one Twitter user puts it, this dampens the trustworthiness of Google Docs.
"Yep. I can't trust [Google docs] any more. If this was the day before a grant submission, it could literally cost us £100k+," said the Twitter user.