Microsoft Acts to Stop OneDrive Users Excluding Sites from Searches

Block Introduced in October; Available Everywhere Now

In September, I wrote about a problem inherited from an on-premises setting for OneDrive for Business sites. In a nutshell, because OneDrive sites are personal, their owners are the site administrators. And because they’re site administrators, a user can update the site settings to exclude the content of their OneDrive for Business site from searches (Figure 1). The upshot is that someone with bad stuff in their OneDrive site can stop Office 365 content searches finding and exporting that information. I’m not sure that people set on doing something dubious would keep information in OneDrive as they’re far more likely to keep it hidden safely away in a repository that only they can access, but it’s the principle that counts here.

OneDrive for Business Site Settings - Search and Offline Availability
Figure 1: OneDrive for Business Site Settings – Search and Offline Availability

Microsoft Engineering Responds

In any case, I took the problem to the SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business product group. They acknowledged the problem and addressed it with some alacrity by removing the ability to exclude site contents from searches from the Site Settings page for OneDrive for Business sites. If you go to Site Settings for a OneDrive site now, you should find that the Search and Offline Availability settings are no longer available (Figure 2).

OneDrive for Business Site Settings
Figure 2: OneDrive for Business Site Settings

Some Lingering Issues

Although OneDrive for Business site owners can no longer find the option to remove their site from search results in site settings, a couple of issues still remain.

  • If they know what they’re looking for, site owners can navigate to the .aspx page with the option and set it there.
  • The option to exclude a site from search results is also available to people who know how to use the client side object model (CSOM).

It’s also true that administrators of SharePoint Online sites belonging to Teams and Office 365 Groups still see the Search and Offline Availability link in Site Settings and can, if they want to, remove the site from search results. In an era when compliance is critical for many organizations, it seems like allowing site owners to remove their information from searching shouldn’t be allowed inside Office 365.


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