Setting Permissions when Sharing from Google Drive

Google Drive’s cloud based file storage can be a really powerful tool for remote work and collaboration. However, many people are concerned with the security of their data when sharing from the cloud. By knowing how to change permissions when sharing, you can fully control the access to your files and your intellectual property.

The basics of how to share files and folders from your drive

Let’s start with a review on how to share you files. You can do so from the folder in your browser or from within the file.

From within Google Drive, you can right click on a document to bring up the options menu. Share will be in the top section of this menu.

This is the menu that pops up when you right click on a file.

You can also single click the document and then click the share icon at the top of the folder.

Single clicking will highlight the document and create more options at the top toolbar.

From within a document, there is a Share button in the upper right of the tool bar. All three options will get you to the same share dialogue.

If you already have the file open, there is a big share button at the top right.

Adjusting permissions in a direct invitation

Once the share dialogue pops up, you have two options. One is to share directly with people and groups and the other is to copy a shareable link.

Both options can share your file or folder but the permission settings are a bit different.

Share with people and groups allows you to set who specially access the document. This can be used to lock out anyone who is not on this list, or as just a convenient way to send the collaborator an email to invite them to collaborate. On the recipient’s end, they can click the link in the email, as well as locate the file or folder in their shared with me folder.

This is the view your collaborators will see if they want to access your file later.

After entering the email address of the collaborator (or allowing it to auto-fill from the name if they are in your contacts list), the permission category for that user will appear. Click the drop down to select viewer, commenter, or editor. (Please note that if you are sharing with a non-gmail email, they will default to being a viewer.)

There are three collaboration options for Google Drive.

A viewer can only access you file as view only and will not be able to make any changes to your document. In the default settings they will be able to download a copy for themselves and edit their own copy if they choose. A commenter cannot change the content of the document but can make suggestions through comments. An editor can be enabled to have full read and write access for collaboration. Generally, they will be able to overwrite and/or delete files and folders they have access to.

This chart maps out the permissions for each collaborator type.

If you want to change the default permissions for editors or viewers. Click the gear icon to access the permissions settings for this share mode. As the owner of the document you can dictate if the editors can have authority over permissions or not. You can also enable or prevent those marked as viewers only from downloading, printing, or copying your document.  

Additional share settings menu that you can check or uncheck before sharing.

Adjusting permissions to a shared link

The second option when you click to share is to get a shareable link. This can be more convenient as you can share via your preferred communication platform such as a direct instant message. However, having a shared link has a greater potential to be re-shared to someone you didn’t initially invite.

Fortunately, the default option is set to restricted which only allows people who already have access to the file to use the link. That means you will have either had to previously shared the file or the containing folder with them, or they will have to request permission to access after clicking the link.

The check mark is by the restricted default, but just click anyone with the link to open the sharing permissions.

You can change the restricted permissions. First click the word restricted to expand on this option. Then click the drop down to change the permission to “anyone with this link”. This will allow people with the link to access the file as a viewer.

Now anyone who has access to that link can view your document.

To grant commenter or editor status via the link, click the drop down menu on the right of the permissions selection.

Want more collaboration? You can change link access to allow comments or editing.

Unlike the editors above, anyone with the editor link can make changes to your file. They do not need to be signed into a Google account to view and edit the file.

Having an open link allows for anonymous editing as pictured above.

Revoking Access

If you find in the future you want to revoke someone’s access or change their permissions, you can do so from the same share dialogue box.

Click the drop down next to their name. You will see the option to change their permission status as before, but also will see the option to remove them. Clicking that disallows them from accessing the document in any capacity.

Click to revoke access or change the collaboration status of any individual.

If you shared via a link, you can change the restrictions as you did before. If any anonymous users are currently in the document, they will be removed. Any users not in the list of shared gmail users will no longer be able to use the link sent to them.

Finding the balance

Granting permission to access anything in your Google drive will always need a balance between security and convenience. With the knowledge of how to control the data you share, you can better make decisions about who can access what. Review your currently shared documents and take the time to set permissions when sharing in the future.

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