March 10, 2009

Google Software Glitch Exposed Private Documents

Google confirmed suspicions that a software bug left privately stored documents exposed on its Docs application service.

The problem was fixed by the weekend and is thought to have only affected .05 percent of the digital documents at a Google Docs service, which provides text-handling programs as services on the Internet.

"We've identified and fixed a bug where a very small percentage of users shared some of their documents inadvertently," Google Docs Product Manager Jennifer Mazzon wrote in a message at the firm's website on Saturday.

"We're sorry for the trouble this has caused. We understand our users' concerns (in fact, we were affected by this bug ourselves) and we're treating this very seriously."

According to Google, the problem happened as people chose to collaborate on multiple documents and adjust settings that allows access to others.

This gave collaborators the permission to access documents unintentionally.

"As part of the fix, we used an automated process to remove collaborators and viewers from the documents that we identified as having been affected," Mazzon said.

"We then emailed the document owners to point them to their affected documents in case they need to re-share them."

This error comes as Google and other Internet firms persuade people to rely on applications offered online instead of buying software then installing and maintaining it on their own machines.

Even though the trend toward relying on applications online is growing, some still worry about the privacy of data kept online and whether it is shrewd to rely on the Internet for access to information and applications.


On the Net: