How to quickly verify all public files on Google Drive

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 15, 2014
Updated • Jan 4, 2018
Companies, Google

If you are using cloud storage solutions such as Google Drive you know that you have control over the visibility of your data in the cloud.

You can set it to private so that only you can access it, but also invite others to have access, and even allow public access to the files instead.

While most of you are probably taking good care of that to make sure that only files that you want to share with others are shared, this is not always the case.

One reason for that is that it is relatively easy to share files with the public or a circle on Google Drive, especially if you use the application and web service at the same time.

It pays to check the visible files from time to time to make sure that you are okay with it. If you discover files that you do not want to share, you not only need to change the viability of those files but also find out why they have been shared this way in the first place to avoid that you make the same mistake again.

Check Google Drive visibility

google drive visibility

Thankfully, it is easy to get a list of files that are publicly visible on Google Drive. Here is what you need to do.

  1. Open the Google Drive website using your web browser of choice.
  2. Sign-in to your Google account if you are not logged in already.
  3. Click on the small arrow icon next to the blue search icon at the top. The menu that you see on the screenshot opens up.
  4. Select Public on the web first. This displays all public files that you are the owner of, public files that you have opened, and public files that were shared with you.

To change the visibility of a file do the following:

google drive sharing settings
Sharing Settings
  1. Select the file first using the check box.
  2. Click on the More button at the top, and then on Share > Share.
  3. You should see "Public on the web - Anyone on the Internet can find and view" under who has access. Click on the change link next to it an switch to "specific people" here to change the visibility from public.
  4. Here you can also change the access rights. Available are view, comment and edit.

Once you are done going through the public file listing, you may want to go back to remove the public on the web filter and replace it with "anyone with the link".

This lists another batch of files that have either been shared by you or by others with you. Use the same methodology to go through them to make sure you only find files shared by you that you want to share this way.


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  1. David Tr said on September 2, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    Doesn’t work with new google drive interface :(

  2. Stefan said on April 16, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Same problem here.

  3. Mike said on April 16, 2014 at 2:34 am

    This doesn’t appear to work for Google Apps accounts.The highest that I can search is shared within my domain.

    Any ideas if I’m doing it wrong?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 16, 2014 at 9:20 am

      Mike I get the same when I try it on Google Apps. I can only search for the business name’s visibility and not public.

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