Google Drive Sharing Settings & Security

As we’ve mentioned before, humans are often the weakest link in the security chain. But with education, we can get better! We can learn to identify phishing emails, keep our WordPress websites safe, and limit access and permissions to websites and documents.

Today, we’ll discuss Google Drive permissions and how to set them to keep your documents safe.

Google Drive is a useful tool for collaborative teams, especially when working remotely. It allows for the creation and sharing of word processing documents, spreadsheets, and more, and is easy to access from anywhere you have internet access.

But when you share a document on Google Drive, it’s essential to use the correct sharing settings to keep your documents safe.

First things first, we highly recommend you NOT include any very sensitive information in Google Drive. But you may want to share non-sensitive information with your coworkers or collaborators, and Google Drive is a simple and practical way to do so.

To keep your documents safe, use the “principle of least privilege.” This means limiting access to the document to only those who actually require access, and granting those users the least amount of permissions possible. For instance, one person on the team may need to view the document, but not edit it. Another may need to leave comments, but not edit the document. And a third may need to edit the document itself.

Where to find Google Drive sharing settings

Open the Google document in question. Click on “Share.”

Important note: This doesn’t indicate that the document will necessarily be shared with anyone else. Clicking on “Share” takes you to the sharing settings, but in those settings you can choose to keep the document restricted for your access alone.

Google Drive sharing settings

You will see the current settings for the document.

To change general settings (private or public document)

At the bottom, under “Get link”, click on “Change.”

change Google Drive sharing by clicking on "change"

In most cases, you’ll want to set the sharing to “Restricted”.
In some rare cases, you may want “anyone with the link” to be able to view the document.
It is almost never appropriate to set “anyone with the link” as an editor. You should be 100% certain before you choose this setting that this is what you want to do.

If you change this setting, click on “Done” to save your changes.

restrict Google Drive sharing, and click on "Done" to save

To grant a user permission to a document

Click on “Share” again from the main document.

Enter the user’s email address where it says “Add people and groups”.

Share Google documents with a new user

Enter the email address, and press enter or tab.

Choose whether or not to notify the user about this new access. If you check the box, Google will email the user with a link to the document.

Choose the user’s role:

  • Viewer (no editing rights)
  • Commenter (can add comments but not direct document edits)
  • Editor (full document rights except for the right to delete the document, which only the owner can do)

Then click on “Share.”

Set Google Documents permissions for a new user

To update an existing user’s access

Click on “Share” again from the main document.
To change a user’s access level, click on the current access level.

From here you can either change the user’s access level, or remove the user from the document.

Click on “Save” to confirm your changes.

Change user's Google Drive sharing permissions

Find the link to your Google Drive document

You can find the link to your Google document by clicking on “Copy Link” in the sharing box, if you need to send it to a collaborator.

save permissions changes and find link to your Google document


Pro Tip: If you are accessing Google Drive from a public location, remember to use a virtual private network (VPN).


Want to learn more about security and your website? Check out these posts:

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Alisa Cognard

Alisa was one of the first team members to join Red Earth Design, Inc. in early 2004. From data entry, she progressed to MySQL database manipulation and PHP coding. Alisa is responsible for all kinds of odds and ends: installing new websites, adding features to them, programming databases, PHP coding, website troubleshooting, website security, and organizational tasks for Red Earth Design.

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