Seeing unrecognized or anonymous users in a file

Unrecognized users

If you see a name you don’t recognize viewing, commenting on, or editing a file or folder you own, there are a few possible reasons for this:

You shared your file with a mailing list.

If an individual from the mailing list opens your document, spreadsheet, presentation, or drawing, they will show up by name in the list of people currently viewing the doc.

You shared a file with someone who doesn't have a Google Account, and that person forwarded the sharing invitation to someone else.

If you share a file with someone who doesn't have a Google Account, the invitation email can be forwarded to other people. When they click the link in the forwarded invitation, they'll be able to access your file by creating a Google Account.

This happens because Drive and the Docs editors can’t verify access by a particular email address unless the address is associated with a Google Account. In this case, access to the sharing invitation is the authorization needed for a person to access a file in Drive.

Another editor of your file shared the file with other people.

The default setting in the Google Docs editors lets editors of an item add other viewers and editors to that item. You can turn off this ability when you share your item. If you think another person with access to your item shared it with someone you don't know, you can ask the other people with edit access to your item. You can also remove someone's editing rights at any time.

Someone with access to your file changed their email display name.

If someone changes the display name associated with their email account, they'll still have access (they're the same person, after all!), but they may appear to be new and different. Hover over their name in the sharing settings to see their email address.

Anonymous users

​If a file is set by the owner to be viewable or editable by everyone, then Drive and the Docs editors don’t show the names of those who choose to view or edit the file. The identities of users are only displayed when they’re explicitly given permission to view or edit a file (either individually or as part of a group).

People who are not given explicit access are labeled as Anonymous. Each anonymous user will be listed as a different anonymous animal.

When anonymous viewers or editors might show up
The owner doesn't explicitly share an item with any individuals, but chooses the sharing option "Anyone with the link".
  • All viewers or editors will appear as anonymous.
The owner allows anyone with the link to view or edit the item, but also explicitly shares the document with some specific viewers or editors.
  • The people who were explicitly given access will appear by name if they view or edit the item.
  • Other users with access will appear as anonymous when they view or edit the item.

Using Google Apps for your business, school, or domain? People accessing documents within their own domain will always show up by name, whether they've been given individual access or they've been added as part of the entire domain. However, if you set a document to be viewable by anyone both within and outside of your domain (if you don't require sign-in to view the document), people outside your domain will show up as anonymous users when they view or edit the document. The domain administrator can control whether documents may be shared outside the domain using the control panel.

Matt is a Docs & Drive expert and author of this help page. Leave him feedback below about the page.

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