In a privacy error that underscores some of the biggest problems surrounding cloud-based services, Google has sent a notice to a number of users of its Document and Spreadsheets products stating that it may have inadvertently shared some of their documents with contacts who were never granted access to them.
According to the notice, this sharing was limited to people “with whom you, or a collaborator with sharing rights, had previously shared a document” - a vague statement that sounds like it could add up to quite a few people. The notice states that only text documents and presentations are affected, not spreadsheets, and provides links to each of the user’s documents that may have been shared in error.
I’ve contacted Google for confirmation and haven’t heard back, but this seems to be legit - our tipster says that he had previously shared the document listed in his notice, but now it has been reset to show 0 collaborators (one of the precautionary measures mentioned in the note).
Update: Google has confirmed that the note is real, and says that it was an isolated incident affecting less than .05% of all documents. The damage may not be widespread, but it’s still an unsettling lapse in security.