Many users of Google services are reporting that they’re being locked out of Google Docs, and what’s scarier than that is that they’re receiving an error message that claims they’re violating the Terms of Service. Those who are being locked out say it seems to be happening randomly while they’re working on a document. Suddenly, they’re locked out, and an error message appears, accusing them of violating Google’s Terms of Service.

locked out of google docs
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Journalists getting locked out of Google Docs

Many of the reports appear to be coming from journalists who are posting about it on Twitter, and the topics they are being locked out of seem innocuous. National Geographic reporter Rachael Bale sale she was locked out of her article about wildlife crime. Googler Corrie Davidson tweeted that they are looking into the problem, but she hasn’t said anything more than that.

Journalists aren’t the only ones saying that they’ve been locked out of Google docs, however, as one student tweeted that they were locked out of their class’ collaborative study guide, supposedly because it violates the Terms of Service.

Those who are being locked out are receiving this message: “This item has been flagged as inappropriate and can no longer be shared.” Some are reporting that the affected documents are removed, although others are saying that the owner can still access it.

Mind what you put in Google Docs

This problem now has many Google Docs users questioning whether the company scans all documents and is watching everything they load in there. Given that Gmail does scan emails in order to offer up suggested replies, it would make sense that the company also scans documents stored in Google Docs. Google Drive’s Terms of Service even state that the company’s “automated systems analyze your content,” supposedly to provide users “personally relevant product features.” Of course, why anyone expects digital privacy these days is beyond me.

It seems like a serious technical glitch and demonstrates how an algorithm gone wrong can wreck someone’s day, especially those on a tight deadline who are locked out of Google Docs while they’re rushing to finish up on time. At this time, Google’s Dashboard indicates that Google Docs is running perfectly fine, so the company has yet to acknowledge it on its own official page for identifying technical glitches, even though it has acknowledged the issue on Twitter.