Google Drive will prevent you from sharing files that violate its ToS

google logo in building lobby
(Image credit: Google)

As our colleagues at TechRadar reported, Google has announced that it will lock any files in Drive identified as having broken the terms of service, preventing them from being shared with or viewed by other users. The initial owners of any problem files will not be locked out of their own uploads, and they will still be able to access flagged files.

In Google's own words: "When a Google Drive file is identified as violating Google's Terms of Service or program policies, it may be restricted. When it’s restricted, you may see a flag next to the filename, you won’t be able to share it, and your file will no longer be publicly accessible, even to people who have the link."

This announcement is initially alarming from a data privacy perspective, but I'm not sure it's as drastic a change as it appears. In PC gaming we already acquiesce to a number of programs that monitor our use and intervene to enforce the rules. Anti-cheating software in games like Destiny and Call of Duty springs to mind. 

As for the monitoring and control of files in the cloud, Apple, Discord, and Google already have programs in place to automatically flag images associated with criminal activity, like the endangerment of a minor. Corporate intervention into and surveillance of cloud-stored files has been the reality for several years, albeit with a pretty understandable raison d'etre. Even if there is a debate to be had about this sort of surveillance, it is already a firmly established reality.

What's not clear to me is if Google's new enforcement of Drive is backed up by that sort of algorithmic detection, or if the locking of content like malware or pirated media will rely solely on user reporting. Google's blog post does not explicitly say either way, while TechRadar's reporting implies this new form of moderation will be in reaction to user reporting. If it's the former, then there doesn't seem to be much you can do about it. If the latter is true, however, you really just have to make sure your tabletop group doesn't have a narc in it when you share PDFs of your Call of Cthulhu sourcebooks with them. Roleplayer's omertà.

Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.