A big Google Drive change coming down the pipe will prevent people who want to look at a file for the first time from doing so unless they get a hold of a special link. What does this mean for your shared and public files? And what options do Workspace administrators and members have?

Starting September 13, people accessing certain Drive files for the first time will need to receive a URL with a resource key attached. Google has not made it clear if this applies to all files that are privately shared or accessible via a public link, but it’s presumably the case. This special URL will be given by a person who already has viewed the file before or has direct ownership of it, presumably through Drive’s existing sharing protocols. Said privileged users will still be able to access the file through the original, unmodified URL. The policy applies to all Google Workspace customers as well as personal accounts and those still with G Suite Basic and G Suite Business.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal for the average Jane or Joe, but if you’re sharing Google Forms surveys or crowdsourced docs on a months-long basis or maybe you’re just in the slow, unforgiving churn of a professional work environment, the issues coming out of this update will make itself apparent. Long story short, you’re probably going to get a ton of file access requests.

For Workspaces, though, the need for a keyed URL for first-time viewers will depend on whether administrators apply a security update by July 23. The update is set to be applied in one of two ways by default, but this can be turned off within the Google Admin console — hit Drive and Docs, then Sharing settings, and you’ll find the settings for the Security update for links.

The default option for non-education customers will apply the keyed URL regime, but allow Workspace members to exempt their own files from it as applicable. For education customers, the default prohibits users from exempting their own files.

Starting July 26, Workspace members will be notified if the keyed URL regime will be coming and which of their files may be affected as well as whether they can be exempted. The update officially takes hold on September 13.

Administrators will be able to remove or apply the security update after July 23, but members won’t be notified of the change automatically.