michael gurstein on Sat, 23 Jul 2011 08:49:31 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> They just keep coming...

I have no idea of the truth or falsity of what is described in the below
blogpost but whether or not it is real or a very very contemporary science
fiction dystopia doesn't really matter because if it isn't real now for
somebody somewhere it will be very soon. 


 On Wednesday 20th July 2011, @thomasmonopoly said:

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
maybe 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 with 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. I have also lost over 200 contacts.
Many of which I do not have backups of. I have also lost access to my Docs
account with shared documents and backups of inventory files. I have also
lost my Calendar access. With this I have lost not only my own personal
calendar of doctors appointments, meetings, and various other dates, but I
have also lost collaborative calendars, of which I was the creator and of
which several man hours were put into creating, community calendars that are
now lost. None of the calendars were backed up either. I have also lost my
saved maps and travel history. I have also lost in my correspondence medical
records and a variety of very important notes that were attached to my
account. 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 should also mention that I am in fact a paying customer in so much as I
purchased my domain through Google and I have purchased additional storage
from Google.

A few other things I would like you to consider: I am currently in the
process of applying to Graduate school. I was occasionally receiving emails
from professors and other people who I am not expecting and whose contact
info I do not have. Meaning that in addition to my friends and family abroad
or people who otherwise may not be able to reach me, these people too will
now receive a message from Google that my email address does not exist. And
I would imagine some of them will not have the time to find other ways of
contacting an applicant whom they were doing a favor to begin with.

A few other things I would like you to consider: I have been what you could
call an enthusiastic supporter of Google as a company. As an early-adopter,
you could nearly go so far as to say I have been an apostle of Google's
work. I had convinced the company I worked for to get on Google Business
Apps and to use Google Apps for nearly everything possible and to purchase
storage with Picasa to build our image database. I have also convinced
nearly all of my friends and family to open either a Google or a Gmail
account in the past two years and have shown people how to use them and
explained the benefits of Chrome over all other browsers. I even own Google

A few other things I would like you to consider: I'm not upset that Google
would put my account on hold if they think it was compromised, but I am
absolutely furious that they would disable my account without notice,
without giving me a reason, and without giving me any way to re-enable it,
and then ignore all of my attempts to speak with someone. No other online
service provider behaves this way. I understand that Google can't offer
support for every little thing, but when a company like Google has
monopolized sectors of the internet they need to show some responsibility to
some of their customers when things like this happen. 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 later, 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?
USER1: OK calm down, can you do [something which required me to log in]?

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 understand the philosophy behind user moderated forums. But in many cases
problems are out of the reach of other users. I am not asking how to enable
emoticons in a gmail signature or how to change my profile picture. This is
a serious issue for which a serious avenue of appeal should be available. 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 a single person has been able to offer any
assistance, which I find shocking and infuriating in a Kafkaesque
nightmarish way.

After exploring every possible channel for help I was finally contacted out
of the blue by an employee of Google who had coincidentally seen my ranting
on Twitter, a service which I employed due to Google's own complete lack of
customer support. He said he would try to contact people in Google and help
get my account restored. After emailing back and forth with him he reported
that he spoke with someone at Google who told him my account had been
disabled and they didn't tell him why. He tried to explain to them that it
must have been a mistake but they would not explain themselves. So Google,
here is something else I want you to consider. One of your own employees
went to you on my behalf and notified you that you had disabled my account
by mistake, and your response was "No, we're pretty sure about it." Your own
employee said "Listen, I have been communicating with this person and I
think there has been a mistake made, can you double check or talk to him
about it." And again your response was "No, we're pretty sure." So ask
yourselves, would someone such as myself who has had their account disabled
go on such a vociferous and widespread campaign to speak with someone at
Google and explain to them that there has been a mistake and that you have
destroyed years of important personal data, would someone such as myself do
that while knowingly conducting illegal activity with my account? You only
need common sense to answer that.

A few other things: I have had hotmail, yahoo, aol, and compuserve accounts
and I have never had an account disabled. When one of those companies
believed that my account was compromised they have notified me and I have
changed my password. Why Google didn't notify me at the alternate email
address I provided at sign up before they took it upon themselves to disable
my account completely baffles m. If you say I have violated some Terms of
Service that is your right to say and in such a case it is within your right
to terminate my service. But I am asking now for even a modicum of proof of
that violation.

Regarding any perceived violation, let me be completely clear about
something: I did not violate any terms of service. If Google thinks there
was something done on my part I challenge them to tell me what it is. I have
in no way violated any Terms of Service and that is a matter of fact. I
mention now that a few days before my account was disabled I was getting
error messages when trying to access Google.com via Chrome. I am also not
the only person I know that this was happening to. My other friends and
family on Chrome were getting error messages when trying to access
Google.com. I believe they were redirect notices or site certificate
notices. My Google Plus account was acting strange prior to my account being
disabled as well. But I run regular virus checks and have never had a
computer virus. Any "perceived violation" is a misunderstanding on Google's
part, and that too is a fact.

You have cut off my communication, disrupted my personal and professional
life, effectively stolen vast amounts of my personal and professional data,
accused me of something without telling me that I am accused, accused me of
something without telling me what it is that you have accused me of, blocked
any direct communication with my accuser, and given me no ability to appeal
this decision or to speak with someone on the facts of the case. This
company is headed down a very, very menacing path if it continues in this

Several calls have been made in the U.N. for Internet access and basic
communication and information services to be made a human right. In Greece,
Spain, France, and parts of Scandinavia this has already been granted. It
won't be long until there are laws in place regarding the personal accounts
used to access those communication and information services and laws
safeguarding the personal information in those accounts, such as
correspondence. It is unforgivable that a company such as Google, which
claims so much of the communication and information thruways, would not take
the lead on this issue and instead drag their feet until they are forced by
individual governments. Companies like Google are taking advantage of the
current laws and writing into their Terms of Service clauses such as:

".you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and
non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish,
publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you
submit, post or display on or through, the Services."
These are not sustainable terms and I have no doubt they will be altered at
some point in the future. Most major news organizations have already begun
to examine Google and other companies who choose to force these terms upon
their customers and the ramifications they hold for artists, and to see
Google embrace them along with every other company like a pig in shit is
vile and inexcusable.

One day the Internet will most likely be as fiercely regulated as the phone
lines it began on. And when that day comes it will come as a force of
government, and it will mark another failure for the Free Market to
proactively defend the liberty of its citizen customers. And I truly fear
for the future of social and political dissidence which will struggle to
exist in the lull between open networks and the current policy climate in
which Google's Director of Privacy Alma Whitten has publicly championed
YouTube as a way for political activists to post content anonymously only
months before a complete reversal of policy quietly eliminating anonymous
reporting completely.

I would also like to mention that I will absolutely not be opening another
Google account. As I mentioned before I have been nothing short of an
apostle on behalf of Google but that is over. I will be terminating Google
Apps within the company I work for, and shutting down any other Google
products I use, even things such as Google News which I had previously
accessed several times a day. I was even about to switch from my iPhone to
an Android device. But I will instead be putting just as much effort as I
showed praising Google into denouncing what I now consider to be a horrible
company, with shameful practices. I will be contacting my congressman, I
will be selling my stock and I will also be contacting my bank regarding the
money paid for the domain and storage which are now inaccessible and I will
force Google by any means possible to explain to me what it is that they
perceived as a violation. The terms that are now offered for account sign
up: "Google reserves the right to: Terminate your account at any time, for
any reason, with or without notice" are not sustainable terms and at some
point a court will decide that those are unacceptable terms and that for a
company that people entrust with so much of their personal information, and
that is relied on so heavily, Google needs to provide proof of what it is
that causes an account to be disabled. Again, you cannot take peoples money
and you cannot monopolize entire sectors of the internet without showing
some degree of responsibility to your customers. I should expect that Google
will be forced to provide a means of taking away personal info, such as
correspondence and contacts, when an account is closed. The fact that Google
does not currently offer this option when they baselessly disable a user's
account only adds insult to injury.

When I think of all the business I have brought Google, all the people I
have brought over from yahoo and hotmail, all the praise I have showered on
Android, and all the work I put into my company's enrollment in Google Apps,
I am enraged and truly regret my actions. And I will be doing everything
possible to reverse those decisions and everything possible to force Google
to be a more responsible company.

Shame on you and on your associates and on your employees who tolerate such
deplorable, dishonorable, and reprehensible business practices.

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