Is Google Drive Private?

How private is Google Drive?

Google Drive is as private as you want it to be.  That is, you can keep all of your files private if you wish, and only those with access to your Google account (which, ideally, should be just you) can get at them.  Or, you can share certain files with specific people, people within your business, or anyone who wants to find them.  It's up to you.

Google Drive privacy settings

When you share files that you have access to on Google Drive, there are two sets of privacy settings that you can adjust.  The first set has to do with who can find or view your files at all; we'll call this "Access".  The second set has to do with what people who have access to your files can actually do with them; we'll call this "Control".  You can adjust each of these types of settings for each individual file that you store on Google Drive.

Our How to Share Files on Google Drive tutorial will show you how to adjust both types of settings.

Google Drive access privacy settings

These settings control who can find and do stuff to your files on Google Drive in the first place.  There are five different options, from least private to most private:

PUBLIC

Anyone on the Internet can find and access your files on Google Drive that have this setting, either by using a general search engine or searching on Google Drive itself.

PUBLIC LINK

Your Google Drive files that have this setting cannot be found, but they can still be accessed by anyone who has their specific Internet addresses.

DOMAIN

Anyone logged into Google Drive with an email address from your particular email domain (for example, ours at Techboomers is "@techboomers.com") can find and access your Google Drive files that have this setting.

(Note that this setting will only appear if you are using Google Drive as part of a business.)

DOMAIN LINK

Your Google Drive files that have this setting cannot be found, and they can only be accessed by people who know their specific Internet addresses AND are logged into Google Drive with an email address from your particular email domain.

(Note that this setting will only appear if you are using Google Drive as part of a business.)

SPECIFIC PEOPLE

Only specific people whom you have invited to access Google Drive files that have this setting may do so.  If you have not invited anyone else to access these files, then they are more-or-less completely private.

Google Drive control privacy settings

These settings deal with what people who have access to your files on Google Drive can actually do with them.  You can set them for both individual people whom you explicitly share your Google Drive files with, as well as the general groups of people to whom you allow access to your Google Drive files.  There are four options, from most private to least private:

CAN VIEW

This setting gives other people the least amount of control over your files on Google Drive.  When a file has this setting, people who have access to it can only view it, download it, or make a copy for themselves to save to their own Google Drive.  The latter two privileges can be restricted at your discretion, as well.

CAN COMMENT

Files on Google Drive that have this setting can have a bit more done to them by those who can access them.  In addition to the viewing privileges listed above, users can leave comments on these files, and suggest edits to be made to them (if they are Google-format office documents).  They cannot directly edit these files, though.

CAN EDIT

This is typically the least private control setting that a file on Google Drive can have.  In addition to the viewing and commenting privileges listed above, users who have access to these files can directly edit them (if they are Google-format office documents), grant or revoke access to them, move them in and out of folders in Google Drive, and upload or delete different versions of them.

Note that the ability of people who can edit your Google Drive files to grant or revoke access to them can be turned off if you wish.

IS OWNER

This setting gives the highest level of control over a Google Drive file, and is usually reserved for the person who originally created or uploaded the file.  The owner of a file can do everything that a person who can edit the file can do, with two important exceptions.

First, the owner of a file is the only one who can permanently delete that file from Google Drive.  Second, only the owner of a file on Google Drive can make someone else the owner of that file.  In doing so, they downgrade their control privileges to only being able to edit that file, since a file can't have more than one owner at a time.

 

Those are the ins and outs of how privacy works on Google Drive!

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