File Under: Software & Tools

Can’t Access Your Google Account? Tough Luck

[Update: Axod reports his Google account was re-activated after one full week. He was offered no explanation as to why he was locked out, but he once again has access to all of his data.] A web programmer is the latest victim in a string of recent Google account shut-downs the company has been slow to remedy.

Axod, creator of the Ajax-powered chat webapp Mibbit, which we’ve written about previously, was apparently the victim of a malicious hacker last Thursday. While that sort of random attack could happen to anyone, it’s Google’s response that has Axod steamed.

“A company really shows its true colors when things go wrong, or when users need help,” he writes. “Google has shown that it simply doesn’t care.”

Some details from the Mibbit blog:

On Friday 31st October, I woke up, went to check my gmail, and couldn’t login. It just said “Account has been disabled”. No reason, nothing. I went through their ‘contact us’ form. It replies with an auto-responder stock e-mail listing irrelevant reasons. I e-mailed back, more auto-responders. I’ve since called their adwords support number, who keep saying “We’re looking into it”. 6 days is long enough to reinstate an account.

According to his own evidence gathering, somebody apparently gained access to Axod’s Google account and caused it to get disabled, all just for fun. Even if that’s all it was, a simple prank, Axod has his entire life wrapped up in that Google account — Gmail, a personal blog, AdWords and AdSense accounts, a calendar he shared with his wife. He has to reboot his online life and start over from scratch, which he is in the process of doing.

Along with the rise of cloud computing and the move to personal online data storage has come a vocal backlash against it for precisely this reason. Most famously, free software advocate Richard Stallman, in an interview with The Guardian in September, advised strongly against handing over private data to any third party, calling it “worse than stupidity.”

The slow response problem has been a nagging issue for Google. In October, we reported on blog editor Loren Baker, who was mysteriously locked out of his Google account for over 15 hours. Here’s another blogger’s story.

Indeed, this could happen to any of us without warning. All the more reason to make local backups. Here are some links to get you started:

We wish Axod luck in his rebuilding process, and we hope Google steps up and actually turns his account back on soon.

[Thanks to Paul for the tip!]