Google Deletes Last 7 Years Of User's Digital Life, Shrugs

Something happened to Dylan’s Google account, and it’s been disabled. He doesn’t know what happened to the account, and no one at Google with the power to help him is interested in acknowledging the problem or letting him back in to the cloud-based services where all of his correspondence and much of the digital trail from the last few years of his life is stored. Google doesn’t own Twitter, though (yet), and he has taken to Twitter to try to draw attention to his problem and urge anyone who will listen not to trust Google with their digital lives.

He wrote a long and detailed open letter to Google, posting it to TwitLonger because his blog, hosted on Blogger, has been shut down too. We’ve excerpted about one-third of his rant below.

Dear Google,

I would like to bring to your attention a few things before I disconnect permanently from all of your services.

On July 15 2011 you turned off my entire Google account. You had absolutely no reason to do this, despite your automated message telling me your system “perceived a violation.” I did not violate any Terms of Service, either Google’s or account specific ToS, and your refusal to provide me with any proof otherwise makes me absolutely certain of this. And I would like to bring to your attention how much damage your carelessness has done.

My Google account was tied to nearly every product Google has developed, meaning that I lost everything in those accounts as well. I was also in the process of consolidating everything into my one Google account. I had actually thought through this a few months ago and determined Google to be a trustworthy, dependable company. So I had imported all of my other email accounts, hotmail, yahoo, etc., into that one gmail account. I had spent roughly four months slowly consolidating my entire online presence, email accounts, banking info, student records, etc., into that one Google account, having determined it to be reliable.

That means in terms of information, approximately 7 years of correspondence, over 4,800 photographs and videos, my Google Voice messages, over 500 articles saved to my Google Reader account for scholarship purposes (a side-note: when I closed my original Reader account to consolidate everything in my one reliable account bearing my name I re-saved several hundred of the articles myself, by hand, one by one to this new account. The one you have closed and from which I have now lost all of the articles.) I have lost all of my bookmarks, having used Google bookmarks. I had migrated my bookmarks from computer to computer, a couple hundred of them, for maybe six years and I finally uploaded them all to Google bookmarks, happy to have found a solution to migrating them and happy to be safeguarded from their loss.

My website, a blogger account for which I purchased the domain through Google and designed myself, has also been disabled and lost. Do you really think I would knowingly do anything to jeopardize that much of my personal and professional information? And I am sure as the days continue I will realize other things that Google has destroyed in their unwarranted disabling of my account. I am only too angry right now to think straight and realize them all. Why anyone would entrust anything to “The Cloud” after what I have gone through is completely beyond my ability to comprehend.

I have exhausted the help forums. And that has only made me much angrier. I will not bother to quote the nonsensical exchanges I have had, there are too many and they will only aggravate me further. The breaking point came when a “Top Contributor” moved my thread from the original help forum in which I posted it, into another forum without my permission. Then a few days, and 34 responses, later, another “Top Contributor” posted that my thread was in the wrong forum and closed the conversation, thus preventing me or anyone else from posting to it or making any more progress. The user forums are not the informative places that Google may think they are. And the only time a Google employee posted in my thread was to say that my question was in the wrong forum, and to tell me that I should have posted in the forum that it was originally posted in. This came after being asked over, and over, and over again the same questions. Here’s an example:

ME: Please help me my account has been disabled and I don’t know why.
USER1: Just log into your dashboard and do [something.]
ME: I can’t, my account has been disabled.
USER2: Hi I just saw your post. Can you log into your account and tell me what [something] says?
ME: NO, I CAN’T LOG INTO MY ACCOUNT.
USER1: OK calm down, can you do [something which required me to log in]?
ME: NO! I CANNOT LOG INTO MY ACCOUNT!!!!

After four days of this I nearly gave up, until another “Top Contributor” stopped by to mention that my thread was in the wrong forum and I should have posted it in another forum, the original forum that I had posted it in. Then the conversation was closed by someone and I gave up, after five days.

I do not care that a Google service is free. That is Google embracing a “You don’t like it? Too bad, it’s free anyway” approach. Free or not, all users are in the Google orbit and it is through advertising to us, their base, that Google has made the billions of dollars they have. There is no other corporation trading stock at the level of Google that does not offer customer support, plain and simple.

In addition to the forums I also filed every form and request I could find and attempted to contact every office and even went in person to both Manhattan offices, but not one single person has been able to offer any assistance, which I find shocking and infuriating in a Kafkaesque nightmarish way. I was even told by one employee that they don’t know what I should do and that, “Honestly, I don’t even use Google.”

Dylan isn’t the only one this has happened to. We hear often from readers locked out of their Gmail accounts for no clear reason, and it happened to one of my friends while she was job hunting. The account is still shut down, more than a year later.

As more and more of our lives migrate to various clouds, remember: that can all be taken from you in a few errant keystrokes or a glitch. Make your own backups when you can.

Open Letter to Google [Twitlonger]

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