Shared a Dropbox folder? Don’t forget!

Surprisingly, I have seen this happen several times. Someone and I share a Dropbox folder as we work on a joint project. Six months or a year later, that someone starts loading documents into the shared folder that clearly are not intended for me. Has the person forgotten that the folder is shared? Has the person forgotten with whom the folder is shared?

Inadvertent sharing is a real danger for lawyers as more and more of us use services such as Dropbox, Box and SugarSync. In my case, none of the documents inadvertently shared with me involve attorney-client privilege or work product. But it seems a safe bet that the day will come when some lawyer will put the wrong document in the wrong shared folder — with disastrous results.

It is easy to determine if a Dropbox folder is shared. Log in to your Dropbox website and look at the list of folders. If the folder is shared, it says “shared folder” next to the name. To see who it is shared with, right click the folder and select “shared folder options.” (Alternatively, open the folder and select “shared folder options” from the top of the screen.)  There, you will see an option for displaying the folder’s members.

Don’t forget that Dropbox installs a mirror set of folders on your local computer in order to synchronize between your desktop and the Web. The folder icons on your desktop version of Dropbox display a little picture of a person to indicate when a folder is shared.

Know How to ‘Unshare’

If you were the person who originally created and shared the folder, you can “unshare” the folder. To do this, open the shared folder options (by right clicking on the folder) and click on “members” to show the people with whom the folder is shared. From there, you can either “kick out” individual members or unshare the entire folder.

Remember that, just as Dropbox mirrored the folder on your desktop, it did the same on the desktops of the folder’s other members. As the owner of the folder, you get to decide whether the other members get to keep their copy of your shared folder.

When you unshare a folder or kick out a member, Dropbox will ask you if you want to let the members keep their desktop copy of the folder and its files. If you say no, the files will be deleted immediately from their Dropbox websites and from their desktops the next time they synchronize their Dropbox folders.

There is a flip side to this. If you have files in a folder that someone else created, you stand the risk of losing those files. If the person who originally shared the folder unshares it, you might lose anything you stored there, even if it has been synchronized to your desktop.

The ability to share folders is one of the best features of Dropbox. Just make sure you learn how to share safely.