Google Docs bug locks out users at random, raises privacy questions

A Google Docs bug has been randomly locking out users since yesterday. Some were prevented from accessing their docs, while others were stopped in the middle of work or while sharing them, with a message that they were violating Google’s terms of service. Apart from sending shockwaves, this has raised privacy concerns.

Users unleashed a Twitterstorm after being shut out of what appeared to be innocuous docs.

Google Docs finally tweeted an acknowledgment of the problem, but users were not pacified.

Finally, a Google spokesperson issued a statement last evening with the following explanation:

“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. 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.”

Despite that assurance, it flags privacy issues with cloud-based software and content. As cloud expert Dana Gardner put it to The New York Times: “This shows that Google is using advanced machine learning and other AI technologies to examine vast amounts of information in near real time.”

So, after the shock of losing access to documents, its wider ramifications are dawning on users:

“We should all be keenly aware that any and all content we create, handle or amend inside of these cloud services is being evaluated and scrubbed, and it’s not being done by people, it’s by machines,” said Gardner.



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