Google relaxes access controls to Apps documents

People without a Google Account will be able to view documents stored in the Apps suite

Adding convenience possibly at the expense of security, Google will now let people without a Google Account view documents stored in its Apps cloud suite.

The move is meant to simplify how Apps customers share files with outsiders.

Until now, Apps customers could only grant document access to users with a Google Account. People who didn't have an account or who weren't logged in to their account couldn't get into the documents even when invited to do so via an emailed link from an Apps user.

That will no longer be the case, Google said on Monday.

The change applies to Word processing files created with Docs, presentations created with Slides and charts created with Drawings, which are all Google cloud productivity apps that are included in Apps, the company's workplace collaboration and communication suite.

"As a result of this change, files shared outside your domain to an email address not linked to an existing Google Account can be viewed without having to sign in or create a new Google Account," reads the Google blog post.

These recipients will only be able to view the file. They won't be able to edit or add comments to it, actions that still require the recipient to be logged into a Google Account.

Google warns that "because no sign in is required, anyone may view the file with this sharing link." In other words, the file could end up being viewed by unintended users who somehow get their hands on the link. This possibility is erased if the recipient creates a Google Account, at which point the link becomes unusable for others.

The company started to roll out the feature on Monday to Apps customers that are on the "rapid release" track, which delivers new and changed functions to administrators and end users as soon as they go live. The feature will later reach Apps customers on the "scheduled release" track, which delivers updates once a week and makes them available to administrators first.

Apps administrators will be able to disable this feature for their users on their domain control console.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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Juan Carlos Perez

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