In products that use the same real-time collaboration system as Google Docs, “Anonymous Animals” can leak the underlying user’s identity by exposing the real userId of the victim. If the attacker already knows the userId of a given victim, she can de-anonymise the victim when the victim is an “Anonymous Animal”.

Core Issue:

Every active Google Docs user is polling the /bind endpoint for new real-time events. If a new user opens the document, every already connected user will receive a “connection event” from the /bind endpoint with the new user’s user object which includes the new user’s name, profile picture, and among others, the userId.

This userId is unique for only one product. So for example Docs, Sheets and Slides use different userIds for the same underlying Google user.

The core issue is that when a user is an “Anonymous Animal”, her userId should also be anonymous, and not the same as her real identity’s userId. Currently a user’s real userId and “Anonymous Animal” userId is the same, allowing an attacker to de-anonymise a victim.

Steps to reproduce:

  1. Create 2 Google accounts: Attacker and Victim
  2. [Attacker] Create a new Google Docs document and invite Victim using her email address, as a viewer
  3. [Attacker] Start monitoring the /bind responses
  4. [Victim] Open the Google Docs created in Step 2.
  5. [Attacker] See the victim’s user object in the /bind responses, and note the victim’s userId
  6. [Attacker] Create a new Google Docs document and share it to anyone with the link -> Viewer
  7. [Attacker] Start monitoring the /bind responses
  8. [Victim] Open the Google Docs created in Step 6.
  9. [Attacker] See the Anonymous Animal’s user object in the /bind responses, and see that this userId is the same userId previously noted in Step 5.


This issue could be used to de-anonymise victims just by making them visit a malicious link/website which could redirect to/embed an attacker controlled e.g. Google Docs, which when opened by the victim, leaks the victim’s userId to the attacker.

This requires a targeted attack, since an attacker needs to have pre-collected mapping data between userIds and Google accounts.

I wanted to find a way to increase the impact and convert a userId to a name/email, but I didn’t have any success. If it’s somehow possible to convert a userId to a name/email, it would allow mass de-anonymisation of every Google user who visits a malicious link.

[Disclosure Warning]:

This is a new system I am experimenting with:

This issue is subject to a 90 day disclosure deadline. On 2021-04-29 this report with all additional comments will be publicly disclosed. Sensitive details from the report/comments such as names/email addresses will be redacted. If you would like to redact additional information or if for some reason the issue can’t be fixed until the deadline, let me know in a comment.

Thank you!