If you have a good, complex password that no one else is privy to, your documents are safe.

The fact that we can share documents in Google Drive to easily collaborate doesn’t mean that all your documents are visible to others. It doesn’t give the people you have previously shared content to access to anything other than the specific items you shared to them in the past. It did not open your drive up to them.

Can you tell by glancing at your Google Drive screen which items have been shared and which items are private? You bet you can! Here is a screenshot of my Google Drive:

Did you notice the image of two greyed out people? Those items have been shared to others. I still have control over this. By right clicking on one of the files, I can:

  • see who I have shared it with
  • add others to the list of folks I’ve shared it with
  • remove people who no longer need access to the file
  • remove everyone making it private to me again.

To access the sharing controls, right click on the name of the file you are concerned about and choose the “share” choice from the fly-out menu. In the popup that appears you can control all of it.

Now I can see who it is shared to. If you look at the blue arrow, you can see that in this instance, it’s more like I can kind of see who it is shared to. I’ve shared this document with one group. What if I don’t remember the details of that? If that’s the case, I want to click that word that says “advanced” in the bottom right corner. Clicking on it reveals the following information:

Now we can see that this was an item that I attached into Google Classroom. It was shared to my “Google Classroom Professional Learning” classroom in Google Classroom. (That’s actually the name of that class, it’s the file I’ve been using to build the CESD Learning Hub modules on Google Classroom). Now I know who it is that has access to this file.

If we look more closely at that screen you will see that we can change people’s access to that file. So, you could take away someone’s ability to edit and give them “view only” there. You could remove people from the file as well. You can also add people if you need to share it with more people. (Clicking the pencil beside the “Invite people” text box allows you to control what they can or cannot do with the document.)

Finally, let’s look at those bottom two choices. Those are only available to the owner (9 times out of 10 the owner and the creator are one in the same).

Firstly, you can prevent the people you add to the file (and gave full editing permissions to) from adding others. That’s kind of a nice security feature. It’s your intellectual property, you can control what others do with it.

Secondly, you can disable the options to print, download and take a copy for anyone to whom you have given “view” privileges. If your intellectual property is something you wish to lock down while still sharing, you have control. Sharing doesn’t mean you have to share everything!