Google's solution to fight Google Drive Sharing Spam is inadequate
Google announced a new block user feature for its Google Drive file hosting and synchronization service Google Drive last week that prevents others from sharing files and folders with you.
Up until now, everyone with a Google account could share content with everyone else, provided that they have that user's email address. By default, new shares are announced via notifications or emails. The new share is shown when you click on the shared section of Google Drive as well, and it was stuck there up until now.
The shared files are not downloaded immediately or added to a user's Google Drive, but the files are listed, even if unwanted.
Sharing is a useful feature, as it enables users and teams to share files with others. You could use a shared folder to work on an Excel spreadsheet together, or a book, or share holiday photos with other family members or friends.
Spammers have abused the share system for a long time. All it took was to get hold of a user's Google email address. Content could then be shared and since there was no way to remove yourself from shared content, you were stuck with the content.
Up until now, Google Drive did not support blocking users from sharing content with you. Google started the rollout of a new user blocking feature last week. The full rollout may take up to 15 days starting on July 22, 2021.
The new feature is available to all personal Google account customers, Google Workspace customers, and G Suite Basic and Business customers.
The following happens when you block a user on Google Drive:
- The user can't share files anymore with you.
- You can't access any shared files anymore by that user.
- You can't share files with the user anymore.
- The user can't access any files you shared.
How to block users on Google Drive
- Open the Shared with me section on Google Drive's website, or load https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/shared-with-me directly.
- Right-click on a file and select "block email" from the context menu.
- In the prompt that opens, select the block option.
You can also unblock users on Google Drive in the following way:
- Select your profile picture on Google Drive and then Manage your Google Account.
- Go to People & sharing > Blocked.
- A list of blocked people opens. Select the X-icon next to the user that you want to unblock.
Blocking users is not enough
You can use the new blocking feature only after files have been shared with you. While that may work in some cases, it is an inadequate solution as it means that Google Drive users will have to do all the heavy lifting.
While you can report spam to Google, nothing is keeping spammers from creating new email addresses and using these to share the same files or others with you again.
Google should consider adding an option to disallow all shares by default, or to display a prompt to the user when a user attempts to share files for the first time.
The ability to block is an important option nevertheless, as it introduces options to do something against unwanted shares.
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