On Tuesday, July 14th, Google unveiled a tiny but important change to Google Drive. With Google Drive’s latest feature, you can now control who is able to copy, download, or print the content you share using the service by disabling or enabling the feature. This new option is available for any file created with Google Drive – documents, PDFs, presentations, spreadsheets and all.
Users can’t pick and choose which feature they’re disabling though. It’s all or nothing so if you want to disable printing, this means copying and downloading will be disabled as well. This feature is also only available on Google Drive for Web. However, this feature is expected to arrive on other platforms soon. When you choose to use this disabling feature, all entry points for copying, downloading, and printing in Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides are removed. But if you share your content via email (outside of Google) there’s nothing that Google can do for you.
In Google’s blog announcement the company described the feature as “perfect for when the file you’re sharing contains sensitive information that you don’t want shared broadly or leaked.” That said, remember, you are sharing an electronic file and if somebody really wants to they can just manually copy the content or take a screenshot and get what they want. More or less, it’s a reminder and a simple albeit effective way for the file creator to communicate that they do not want the content duplicated or shared any further.
“Disable options to download, print, and copy for commenters and viewers” is a cool new feature but it’s not (nor is it intended to be) a foolproof privacy or security feature. Also, if you don’t own the shared file you can’t utilize the disable option on the content. Be smart about who you share your important files with and you should be just fine; Google Drive disable option utilized or not.