A new Chrome extension is raising some eyebrows, but there’s really no need to panic.

Draftback lets you view all edits made to a document over time in Google Docs, which is a very useful thing for anybody throwing together a piece of writing to have.

All those former bits of text you removed only to think “I wish I’d kept that bit, actually…” are now available long after you’ve hit the delete button. Here’s a fake doc I threw together, right after hitting the Draftback button to create a revision timeline:

Draftback

Here’s the scrollable bar timeline interface / summary, which lets you wind back and forth in time like some sort of Word Processor Timelord:

Document edits

Summary

The “worry” is based around revealing edits you’d prefer to keep hidden – anything involving personal information, or “confidential” business data removed from a document before making it public, for example (catching a spot of CV embellishment or plagiarism would be nice, although if the plagiarised section was deleted and never used – does it even still count? It’s all gone a bit Minority Report now).

The extension only allows you to track changes on a Google Document shared with others who have editing capability. If the document is read-only, you can’t look at older revisions. Like so:

Share options

 

In the above screenshot, pick “Can View” instead of “Can Edit”. On the desktop of the person you’ve shared the file with, they’ll see the following message with Draftback installed:

Revisions denied

There we go, then. As far as Draftback and super secret revision edits are concerned, selecting the correct option at Sharing stage will remove all of your worries about people seeing something you’d rather they didn’t.

As with most things involving your safety, privacy and security it’s all about the choices you make beforehand – horses and stable gates come to mind. Draft on, then, and keep one eye on your sharing options to keep everything in order.

Christopher Boyd