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/docs/community?hl=en
6/4/11
Original Poster
Bas Braams

Possibility to delete files that one does not own

Greetings. The Google Docs system offers some protection against loss of files or file content in connection with sharing. If Alice shares a document doc0 with Bob then Bob can, of course, mess up the content, but Alice can then use File > Revision history to revert to an earlier state. Under the given circumstances Bob cannot delete (move to trash) doc0.
On about April 9, 2011, some of this protection was lost as a result of changes announced in [1]. I think it constitutes a design error or a programming error, but this has not been acknowledged from the Google side. Here I just want to document the situation from the perspective of a user who has lost files that he or she owned. If such files were part of a collection owned by someone else then that other person could have deleted the collection and the files. In the most extreme circumstance we have a  collection L0 owned by Alice and a file doc0 owned by Bob; doc0 was created inside L0 but Bob has removed L0 from his listing and has arranged that doc0 is not shared with anyone. Alice can see L0 in her listing but she cannot see doc0; Bob can see doc0 but he cannot see L0. Nevertheless, when Alice deletes L0 the file doc0 is deleted too, also for Bob. Quite possibly Bob will not have a clue what happened except that his files were somehow lost, and Alice will be unaware even that anything is amiss.
That was the most extreme circumstance, and how to bring it about is described in my comments under [1]. Here is the simplest situation for deleting a file that one does not own. Alice creates collection L0 and shares it to Bob with edit permission. Bob creates file doc0 under L0. Alice now deletes L0, and thereby also deletes doc0. It has been this way since April 9, I believe, and I call it an error. Perhaps the mechanism has been involved in some reports of lost files since April 9.
[1] http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Google+Docs/thread?tid=023778de75b38a40
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All Replies (28)
Gill
6/5/11
Gill
Are you absolutely sure of this, Bas - i.e. that Alice can actually delete a file owned by Bob? If that is true it is most certainly a bug.
ahab
6/5/11
ahab
" In the most extreme circumstance we have a  collection L0 owned by Alice and a file doc0 owned by Bob; doc0 was created inside L0 but Bob has removed L0 from his listing and has arranged that doc0 is not shared with anyone. Alice can see L0 in her listing but she cannot see doc0; Bob can see doc0 but he cannot see L0. Nevertheless, when Alice deletes L0 the file doc0 is deleted too, also for Bob."

I CAN confirm this. 
The steps I followed:
- Alice creates Collection L0
- Slice shares Collection L0 with Bob
- Bob opens Collection L0 and creates a new document doc0 inside this Collection
- Alice moves to trash Collection L0 and the documents within this collection
- Alice deletes forever Collection L0 and the documents that were within the Collection 

End situation: Alice appears to have deleted the document doc0 that Bob created and owned.

IMHO this requires the highest possible escalation! (And Bas ought to be at least promoted to TC for finding out this issue!)

ahab
6/5/11
ahab
Because of the implications of this bug I've escalated this issue immediately.

Gill
6/5/11
Gill
Thanks ahab.

Everyone - please take note of this horrible bug and if you wish to create a doc in someone else's collection DON'T. Crate the doc in your own All Items or Home collection and then move it into the shared one. That way the doc seems to remain under your control!
ahab
6/6/11
ahab
The matter is more serious than what Gill describes, as there is no way to tell if a document was created by a collaborator inside the shared collection or moved into it, any collaborator created document in a Collection may be lost for good when the shred collection and its contents is fully deleted. So the bottom line  - until this bug has been repaired - is: DO NOT DELETE SHARED COLLECTIONS! 
Gill
6/6/11
Gill
...and if you own a doc in a shared collection take a copy of it and put it in your own Home collection!
ahab
6/6/11
ahab
(Request to all: please bump this thread until we see an official reaction from Google. It suffices to give a short comment expressing your concern about this issue to bump it)
6/6/11
Original Poster
Bas Braams
@ahab and @gill, thank you for the attention to this issue, which was first raised five weeks ago in discussion under [1]. Let me spell out the most extreme version of the problem, a slight elaboration of a presentation under [1]. The steps in regular font are essential and the steps in italics are for dramatic effect.
1. Alice creates collection L0 and shares it to Bob with edit permission.
2. Bob enters L0 and creates there document doc0; doc0 is therefore owned by Bob and shared with Alice.
3. Bob removes Alice from the share on doc0.
4. Bob removes L0 from his collections.
5. Alice removes Bob from the share on L0.
6. Alice moves L0 to trash and empties her trash.
After each step it may be necessary to wait a minute or so for the state to take hold. In order to speed things up (the state to take hold) it may help to enter the collection L0 or to open the document doc0. In any case, the stable situation after step 5 is the following.
Alice owns collection L0. It is hers and hers alone, and to her it appears empty. Alice cannot see doc0.
Bob owns document doc0. It is his and his alone and as far as Bob can see it does not belong to any collections. Bob cannot see collection L0.
After step 6, L0 has disappeared for Alice and also doc0 has disappeared for Bob.

ahab
6/6/11
ahab
@Bas,
Curioser and curioser! (Not the least of all that in the other thread you got no reaction from Guide Rebecca). 

Do you want me to reconstruct above scenario so I can confirm it (personally I don't think that should be necessary but it might add some weight to the issue). 
I'm getting very worried that even though you indicted this very serious issue in a thread of which posts should have reached a Guide, until now no action was taken. That would mean the Guides or the Team do not fully understand the verity of the issue: people's documents can be deleted by others - this is plain wrong!
ahab
6/6/11
ahab
(Bump)
17 MORE
ahab
6/26/11
ahab
"This breach allows hackers to view and delete your files"
@C.Woods,
How do you conclude that from Bas' post? This has nothing to do with hacking as far as I can see, but perhaps I'm missing something...
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