Dealing with an Unexpected Shared Google Docs File

Library patrons using tablets and laptops

Checking my Gmail today, I saw that I had an email alerting me to a Google Docs share notification from someone I didn't know. The document was entitled "English Midterm," and the email alerted me to an invitation to edit. Since the email was a Google Docs alert from someone I did not know. I decided to click on the right-hand side of the email where the three stacked dots are and report the email as spam. It was removed from my inbox. It might have even been a better idea to not open the email at all and hit the trash can icon right next to it in the email list. But what to do with the document?

How to Preview a Google Doc

I did some research on this as I didn't want to open the document but just wanted to investigate it. I went into the Shared with Me area of my Google Drive and right-clicked and saw the details associated with the document. I learned that it was shared with one other person and had been created the week before on a Thursday. I also saw that it was shared with another Google user on the day that I had received it, and we had both been given edit rights for the document. Switching from the Activity tab to the Details tab, I was given a thumbnail preview of the document.

Reporting Abuse — Options and Policies

From the Google Drive help forum, I read a tip that one user shared that encouraged people to report unwanted documents by clicking on the "Report Abuse" option. Once this is selected, you will be forwarded to a page that provides options that include

  • Spam
  • Malware
  • Phishing
  • Violence
  • Hate speech
  • Terrorist content
  • Harassment, bullying, threats
  • Sexually explicit material
  • Child exploitation
  • Impersonation and misrepresentation
  • Personal and confidential information
  • Illegal activities
  • Copyright infringement

By selecting an option, you are provided with a brief description of Google's policy on each of the prohibited actions.

How to Take Further Action

If you are interested, you can choose to block a person who sends you unwanted documents, but that would require you to click into the email. Once you do, you can click on the three dots located on the upper-right side of the email and add the person's email to your blocked list. You can check your blocked list by clicking on the gear or Settings option located on the right-hand side of your screen. Clicking on Filters and Blocked Addresses at the top of the screen, you can see a list of blocked addresses for your Gmail account.

Learn More

In 2017, there was an Inc. magazine article that focused on the issue of a malicious Google Docs email and tips on how to handle it if you received a similar email. After doing some more research on the topic, I saw another 2017 The Register article that gives a better example of what one may experience. The article points out that the problem is a "rogue app" that if granted permission, will start sending spam. Thankfully, this is not what I experienced as I knew better than to click on the link in the email. In short, as the Inc. article pointed out, "confirm legitimacy before opening anything."

About the Author

Sophia GuevaraSophia Guevara is a member of the Special Libraries Association Information Technology Division, a member of the Information Outlook Advisory Committee, and a member of the Public Policy Advisory Council. She is also a member of the Nonprofit Technology Network editorial committee for the Connect resource. She also has contributed work to the TechSoup for Libraries blog and the American Evaluation Association's AEA365 blog. She is currently looking for more writing and presentation opportunities.