Why does Office 365 show Guest Contributor as having modified a file?

Ever seen “Guest Contributor” as having just modified a file in OneDrive, and not sure why? You’ve shared the file with some users at your school or workplace and yet their names don’t show up and instead the slightly mis-leading title of “Guest Contributor” floats around and appears as the last modified user. So, why does Office 365 show Guest Contributor as having modified a file?

Who is this mysterious person?.

Office 365 has become the default place to store files and many people are now using it to share data amongst their colleagues and it’s one of these sharing options that’s responsible for this mis-leading oddity appearing. It can make it hard to know who’s working on a document, or even who has managed to make a complete hash of the file that you spent hours making just-so.

The issue arises when the sharing options are set to “Anyone with a link”. This is the default sharing option in many instances and, while it can be perfectly acceptable, it does assume one thing; the user viewing the document is already signed in to Office 365. If the user isn’t already signed in to Office 365 then they won’t be asked to sign in, after all the settings allow anyone to access the document with only the link and so why bother asking them to sign in?

That’s the culprit.

When you share a document the recipient receives an email nicely stating that they can now access the document. The user duly clicks on the link in the email and then the document opens up in a browser. In this situation it may be assumed that the user will be signed in to Outlook in a browser, and thus signed in to Office 365, but that might not be the case. The user might be signed in to Outlook 2016 on the desktop but may not have signed in to Office 365 yet. In this latter case then the user will be taken in to the document without ever being asked to sign in and, even though they are part of the organisation, they will show up as “Guest Contributor”.

But what can be done?

The simplest answer is to ensure that you change the sharing options to something other than “Anyone with a link”. The obvious one is “People in”, which will force the user to sign in so that Office 365 can verify that they are in your organisation.

Now that’s better

You can also change the default sharing permissions in SharePoint which will cause the sharing options in OneDrive to change to something more organisation-friendly. Certainly this might be the preferred option as it means that there is some element of resistance to users sharing files with loose permissions, but still allows them to do so if required.

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