A number of Google Docs users have reported being locked out of their documents today for, according to the message that pops up when they try to access the affected document, violating Google's terms of service. Users that have tweeted about the issue have said their locked-out pieces were about a range of topics including wildfire crimes, post-socialist eastern Europe and a response to reviewers of an academic journal submission.
FYI according to this thread some Google spam system has gone rogue and is randomly blocking some Google Docs https://t.co/A83vuPOapo— SwiftOnSecurity (@SwiftOnSecurity) October 31, 2017
Tfw your finalizing a piece on E. Europe post-socialist parties in Google Drive and Google removes it because it's in violation of its ToS??— Bhaskar Sunkara (@sunraysunray) October 31, 2017
A Google spokesperson told us, "We're investigating reports of an issue with Google Docs. We will provide more information when appropriate." The range of subject matters and number of reports suggest it's probably just a glitch, but the problem is a reminder of what we give up for the convenience and ease offered by cloud-based programs like Docs. Google Docs and others like it allow users to store their work offline, making it easily accessible wherever they happen to be. They also make it easy to share documents between a number of different people. But giving up control over your work comes with risks, as today's issues make clear. And though they're fairly rare, they can cause huge problems.
For example, Twitter user @widdowquinn said that while they had been encouraging others to use Google Docs for collaborative work on grants and academic papers, today's glitch is a deal breaker.
Yep. I can't trust @googledocs, any more. If this was the day before a grant submission, it could literally cost us £100k+— Leighton Pumpkin 🎃 (@widdowquinn) October 31, 2017
Unfortunately, a pen and paper, though reliable, just won't cut it these days. So you'll have to figure out what you're willing to give up and what risks you're willing to take when it comes to storing, sharing and accessing your work.
Update: Google has sent us a statement regarding the lock-outs. "This morning, we made a code push that incorrectly flagged a small percentage of Google Docs as abusive, which caused those documents to be automatically blocked. A fix is in place and all users should have full access to their docs," said a company spokesperson. "Protecting users from viruses, malware, and other abusive content is central to user safety. We apologize for the disruption and will put processes in place to prevent this from happening again."