During the first quarter of 2023 alone, data breaches exposed over 6 million data records worldwide. That’s definitely cause for concern if your organization wants to protect its data — and its reputation.
If you collect data using Google Forms, as many organizations do, it’s important to know whether that data is secure. This is especially relevant for companies that use Google Forms to collect personally identifiable information (PII) or personal health information (PHI).
So, are the forms you use with Google Forms secure?
In this article, we dive deep into the security features of Google and Google Forms and look at the potential weaknesses of this form software. We also compare the security features of Google Forms to those of other form generators to see which ones have the best data security.
What are Google’s security protocols?
Privacy and security are foundational tenets of Google; that’s why the company works proactively to identify and prevent threats. These are some of the layers of security protocols that apply to all Google Workspace apps, including Google Forms:
- Advanced encryption: Google protects your data with HTTPS and Transport Layer Security when it’s moving between your device, Google Services, and their data center.
- Proactive alerts: If Google notices anything that seems out of the ordinary, such as a suspicious login, it will let you know right away.
- Blocked threats: Google blocks access to any websites that seem like a security threat, and this technology is available for other browsers as well, including Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox.
- Updates and patches: Security efforts are ongoing at Google, as it continuously searches for and identifies security threats and updates the software to address them.
Google also acknowledges that it’s important for its users to practice responsible data storage and sharing, and it offers a number of training resources so people can be more informed about how to protect their data.
Are Google Forms secure on closer inspection?
While Google as a whole is highly secure, what about the data you collect through Google Forms?
“Google Forms, as part of Google’s suite of products, benefits from robust security infrastructure,” says Ankit Prakash, founder of Sprout24, a software intelligence solution. “They employ HTTPS encryption, ensuring data in transit remains confidential.
“Additionally,” he says, “Google has proactive measures like automatic detection and blocking of forms soliciting sensitive data. However, the security of a Google Form also depends on its creator’s settings. For instance, a form can be made public or restricted to specific users.”
As part of Google Workspace, Google Forms has a number of security features to prevent data theft and data breaches:
- In-transit and at-rest encryption: Whether your Google Forms data is simply stored on Google’s servers or being transmitted to someone else, Google keeps it encrypted.
- Secure data storage: The data you collect through Google Forms is stored on Google’s servers, which are protected by Google’s comprehensive security protocols.
- Access control: Google enables the form’s creator to determine who has access to their form by requiring all users to sign in to their Google account to open it. If you’re using Google Forms as part of an organizational account, you can restrict access to just members of your organization.
- Two-factor authentication: To sign into your Google account, you must provide your password and complete a second verification step as well, such as providing a code. This reduces the chances of someone else logging into your Google account.
- Audit logs: If you suspect unauthorized login activity associated with your Google Forms account, you can check the audit logs in Google Workspace.
- Compliance requirements: Google offers features to help users adhere to several global compliance regulations, including GDPR.
In addition to the features provided by Google Forms out of the box, users can also make their forms even more secure by taking additional steps.
For example, you can require people who fill out the form to log in to their Google account as a way to authenticate their identity. You can also validate answers by setting up rules in the Google Form for what types of answers are acceptable, such as the length of answer or the type of characters used. Some users also like to restrict responses to one per person to limit the amount of data they have to collect and secure.
Considering the combination of the security features provided by Google and the optional measures you can take on your own, it’s safe to say there are many layers of security available on Google Forms.
What are the potential security concerns with Google Forms?
Security features aside, Google Forms — or any software for that matter — is only as secure as its ability to respond to the latest security threat. Bad actors are constantly coming up with new ways to attack platforms, steal data, and cause issues. That’s why it’s important to stay on top of the different types of security threats that are present for Google Forms, especially if you collect sensitive data.
“While Google Forms offers a secure platform, there are concerns,” says Prakash. “Phishers can exploit the trust users place in the ’google.com’ domain, creating deceptive forms to harvest information.
“The ease of creating a Google Form can sometimes be its Achilles heel, as cybercriminals can quickly generate forms to impersonate legitimate entities. Moreover, if form creators aren’t careful with sharing settings, sensitive data can be unintentionally exposed. Lastly, while Google warns against submitting passwords through its forms, not every user heeds this advice, leading to potential data breaches.”
Here are some potential security concerns with Google Forms:
- Phishing: Cybercriminals can create a fake Google sign-in page that resembles the actual Google Forms page, and victims may enter in their Google Forms login credentials. With the login data in hand, cybercriminals can steal Google Forms data, run spam campaigns, and more.
- Data theft: Attackers can use fake Google Forms to request sensitive information from users and steal their personal data for nefarious actions. Attackers can also use real Google Forms pages to replicate other types of sites, such as an e-commerce page, where victims enter in sensitive data such as credit card details.
- Data removal: Cybercriminals can use software programs to push data collected from Google Forms to their own Google Sheet, rather than having the data go to the intended Google Sheet.
These are just a few of the security issues that exist today, but cybercriminals’ tactics continue to evolve. That’s why it’s important to choose a form software that’s dedicated to proactively fighting security threats and constantly updating its security protocols.
Are Google Forms as secure as other tools?
Another piece of the puzzle is understanding how Google Forms’ level of security stacks up to similar apps and software you might use to collect data.
Take a look at the table below to see how the other leading form makers compare to Google Forms.
|Google Forms||Jotform||Microsoft Forms||SurveyMonkey||Typeform|
|Secure data storage||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|PCI DSS certification||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
Google checks all the boxes, but so do other survey makers like Jotform and SurveyMonkey. Microsoft Forms and Typeform aren’t far behind in their security, privacy, and compliance offerings.
“Google Forms is on par with many competitors in terms of basic security features,” says Prakash. “However, specialized survey tools or enterprise-grade form solutions might offer advanced security features, such as data residency options, granular access controls, or industry-specific compliance certifications. It’s essential to evaluate each tool based on the specific security and compliance needs of the task at hand.”
What makes Jotform an excellent Google Forms alternative
Whether you collect personal identifiable information, personal health information, credit card data, or any other type of data through your forms, you’re right to be concerned about security. After all, you don’t want your organization to become a data breach statistic in the next news cycle.
However, security isn’t the only criteria that matters when it comes to collecting form data. The most useful form-building tools have an array of features that simplify data collection and help you store, manage, and analyze it.
Jotform is a great Google Forms alternative because it offers the same level of security — and a lot more features. In addition to safely collecting data via Jotform, you can
- Use it to manage and analyze the data with Jotform Tables
- Create reports from the data with Jotform Report Builder
- Establish automated workflows with Jotform Approvals
- Collect electronic signatures with Jotform Sign
- Create data-gathering mobile apps with Jotform Apps
Try it out for free!
See also Jotform’s detailed guide about: Google Forms.
Photo by Vlada Karpovich
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