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The Problem

A common problem with Google Docs is that users inadvertently make files public when files are public the contents become available and searchable by Google search engine through the indexing method. These files can now be found on the web.

The Solution

In this post, we will show how GAT can be used to prevent these files from being public and also show how to create a space where domain files can remain public. ‘Public with Link’ is a special case and we will address that at the end of the post.

Case 1 – Removing all Public Shares

In GAT+ go to Drive audit. Click on the Apply custom filters button.

When the Drive Files filters pop-up appears, select the search parameter Sharing Flags contains Shared out. This will show us files which are shared to external users, it will show us files which are public and public with a link.

Now that you see all of the files Shared out files in the Drive result table, we will select them all by checking the checkbox next to Title heading.

Once they are selected you can click on the File operations button and select Remove permissions.

We will now remove all public files from the filter we previously applied above.

We will also notify the users’ whose files were affected by this change. You can use any one of these special variables in your custom message:

Note: If you select Report only you can notify all the users, rather then removing the shares directly for them.

  • {{RECIPIENT}} – recipients full name
  • {{RECIPIENT.FIRSTNAME}} – recipient first name
  • {{RECIPIENT.LASTNAME}} – recipient surname
  • {{RECIPIENT.EMAIL}} – recipient email
  • {{FILES}} this variable is used to show the files which are associated with the user, these files will have a URL link which brings the affected user to the files in question

Case 2 – Identifying External Public files your Users can edit

This is a special case which you can’t close down but at least you can be alerted to. In the G Suite environment, a file shared into your domain with edit rights is just as big a security loophole as a file shared out. The file is owned by another domain so you can have no control over it. However, with GAT it is at least possible to be alerted on a daily basis to when these files are being used by your domain users. Read this paper on Identifying External Public files your Users can edit.

Case 3 – Files Public with Link

Files ‘Public with Link’ are open to anyone who has access to the link but is not searched or indexed by the search engines. This is a very useful way of sharing files with outside organizations.

In Dropbox, these files can be shared and the link given a specific ‘lifetime’ after which it will fail to work.

This is not possible with Google, however using GAT it is possible to achieve on a domain-wide basis something similar and remove ‘Public with link’ docs . To understand how to expire public file share links with GAT, read this paper on cleaning up public links.