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I recently downloaded some JPG files shared via Google Drive whose subject matter was misrepresented to me and shocking.

I successfully removed the files from my account's Shared with me list, but it isn't clear if that means that my user account is also hidden from other users who have access to the same files.

The pop-up message I saw when I removed them wasn't clear:

Remove file?

"filename.jpg" will be removed from view.
Collaborators will still have access.

I don't want my Google account to be exposed to the owner of the files and I also don't want to be affected if Google determines the files run counter to a content policy and take action against users who accessed them.

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The discussion about what a Drive file's owner can see vs. what Google can is very different. Regardless of what Google knows, what they choose to expose is another matter.

What Google Knows

Whether it's the creation, deletion, modification, viewing, sharing, downloading, or editing, you can be fairly certain that Google is logging virtually all interactions for every Drive file regardless if it involves a logged-in Google user.

Further, for the vast majority of the public, Google can aggregate/associate an individual's activity whether performed anonymously, or from a logged-in account (primary, secondary, tertiary, etc.) and across multiple platforms and devices.

What the File Owner Knows

Generally speaking, if a JPG file in Google Drive is shared publicly ('Anyone with the link' option), with 'Viewer' permissions, the file owner will not know if you have viewed or downloaded the file. The information isn't exposed to them in the file's details: File information > Activity.

This holds if the public permissions were either 'Commenter' or 'Editor' although, in those cases, the file's activity would show:

  1. If you're Logged In:
    Comments & edits will be associated with your username
  2. If you're Logged Out:
    Comments will be associated with an 'Anonymous' user, and edits are not possible.

Handling Objectionable Content

  1. On Google Drive:
    Google includes a 'Report or block' option in the same menu you accessed, directly below 'Remove'. Choosing that could be a good option if you are seriously concerned about the implications of having accessed the content, or simply to help protect others who might do the same.
  2. At the Link's Source:
    Presumably, you got the links from somewhere and if they violate that site's standards, or the source misrepresents the contents of the target files, you could explore their reporting options.

Additional Resources

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