If you are one of those Google users who have published their Google Docs and Spreadsheets publicly, then probably it is time for you to wake up and rethink your decision. Because chances are great that soon your *private* document that you published last summer could very well show up in future search engine results. In a recent announcement Google declared that they are going to index publicly published documents on Google Docs and Spreadsheets. Here is an excerpt of Google’s actual announcement:
“In about two weeks we will be launching a change for published docs. The change will allow published docs that are linked to from a public website to be crawled and indexed, which means they can appear in search results you see on Google.com and other search engines.
Please note that this only applies to docs which you explicitly publish using the ‘Publish as web page’ or ‘Publish/embed’ option, and which are linked to from a publicly crawled webpage. This doesn’t apply if it’s only set to ‘Allow anyone with the link to view (no sign-in required)’. This is a very exciting change as your published docs linked to from public websites will reach a much wider audience of people.”
Google Indexing Your Publicly Published Docs! Evil or Not-Evil?
Yes Google, you bet this is a very exciting change for people who had shared their documents publicly in the past and never cared to foresee such a possibility. Moreover, two weeks seem incredibly short notice for such a big change. IMO, users who have “private” but published documents are going to be quite upset to find they are suddenly being indexed by Google! How would someone know for sure if a publicly crawled web page has linked to her published document? It would be much better if one could CHOOSE whether or not her documents should be indexed. At the moment the only way to ensure that your published document doesn’t show up in search results, is to actually unpublish it. This, however, may not be an easy and practical solution for many publishers; especially those who have been using Google Docs and Spreadsheets for years now and have published hundreds of documents via these services.
While Google continues to display its power through these sudden dictatorial decisions, it makes one wonder if it is worth the trouble for the search engine giant to annoy its loyal user base. As the line of privacy becomes thinner, Google is taking yet another step to make sure that web user’s privacy is once again breached in the name of transparency and data accessibility. Dear Google, isn’t it Evil?