Original Poster
Google user

Unacceptable behavior with shared collections - how I got thousands of files stuck in my account

A friend of mine uploaded multiple gigabytes worth of images to her Google Docs account and shared the collection containing them. Keep in mind that there are over 15,000 images that were in this collection. She provided a link to me and some others and we clicked it to see what it was. Upon clicking the link, the collection was immediately added to my "Collections shared with me." That was not what I wanted to do; I just wanted to view the list of the files.

The files all immediately showed up in my Google Docs account as Shared. They did not use any storage on my account, as expected, but they did greatly clog up my Google Docs - looking at thousands and thousands of image files mixed in with my own documents and files is just crazy. In addition, all of the files in that shared collection started downloading to my computer because of a Google Docs client application that I use.

I immediately tried to remove them from my account. I right clicked the shared collection under "Collections shared with me" and chose to Unsubscribe. It removed the entry from "Collections shared with me," but it did not remove any of the files from my account. So, I had over 15,000 unwanted images in my account with no way to delete them in bulk. Insane.

I attempted several things to delete them. I tried to search 'from:herus...@gmail.com' and that did return the items from that collection, but there was no way to delete them all. Choosing to select all only selected the first 50 displayed. If I selected more than 50 at a time, such as 200, and clicked to delete them, a server error occurred. There was no way I was going to delete them all manually like that. Another thing I tried was to have her unshare it and share it again; unfortunately, the files came back in my account. Basically, I am stuck with a ton of unwanted files in my account with no way to get rid of them.

Today, I wrote a Python script using the Google Data API to search out the files and delete them all individually. This is taking quite a long time and I don't know how effective it is. You can find my code here: http://privatepaste.com/5e0fe105a8.

I think that it's completely unacceptable to add an entire collection of files to a user's account just by clicking a link. That sounds like a good way people can prank others, as it's very annoying. I think when a collection is shared, the contents of it should be displayed and there should be a button to add it to your own Google Docs account. This should not be automatic. In addition, there needs to be a way to delete all results for a search, a working way to unsubscribe completely from a shared collection, and the ability to see who has shared with you and remove all of their files from your account. I imagine the average user is not going to be able to write a Python script to solve these problems in Google Docs.

Please fix this; it's a very big flaw in Google Docs for me right now.
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All Replies (3)
MrChiCity Mayne
MrChiCity Mayne
Yeah, I also got linked to something similar. Trying to delete them via the google docs web interface just results in server errors. You can unsubscribe from the collection but it doesn't delete the ones that are already there. 

tl;dr: i got griefed by thousands of images of gay pornography and theres no way to easily remove them
Bas Braams
Bas Braams
I've been aware of this behavior "forever" (meaning, in the context of my interaction with GDocs, for about 18 months) and I regret that I haven't made more of an issue of it in my various forum contributions. The posting by Nicholas P. is excellent, it precisely describes the problem and it points to faults of the GDocs system that make it so much worse than it should be. There are not many users, in relative terms anyway, that would have the ability to write a script to solve their problem through the GDocs API. The key fault is Google's (of all web services) failure to provide facilities to handle large numbers of files in GDocs. One can't even start to think of an operation on more than 2000 files because any operation through the regular user interface acts only upon files that are in the listing and the listing is limited to 2000 files. However, any operation on more than about 300 files fails with a server error, and it has been that way for my "forever" [1].

The Spam issue is amplified by MrChiCity Mayne's response. Indeed, the file sharing in GDocs offers the opportunity for spam sharing. It seems to be mercifully rare still, but a report such as this shows how serious it is. Again, most serious due to failure of the GDocs system to provide basic facilities for handling large numbers of files. If one could simply "select" all files shared "to me" by some person (without necessarily listing them on the screen) and delete them in one operation then the spam file sharing through GDocs wouldn't be so different from email spam, and we have adopted to life with email spam. I point to one earlier discussion on spam sharing [2].

Here is one more related recent conversation [3].

[1] Problems when folder contains more than 2000 files

[2] I have a document from an unknown user in my list of documents. I can't delete it nor do anything else

[3] Deleting all docs at once without closing account
Bas Braams
Bas Braams
Here is an earlier conversation about mass sharing [1]. It might have been malicious or it might have been unintentional (a misunderstood email address), the poster there would not know. No resolution.

[1] I have someone sharing hundreds of Chinese documents with me every day in Google Docs. How do I stop this?
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