The Day Google Deleted Me


(Trigger Warning - violent swearing and criticism of your employer / focus of your fanboi-ism.)

Google knows me. I've been using Google since long before they were fashionable. I have a Gmail account (in my name), YouTube (also in my name), an Android developer account (name and bank details), Play account (name, credit card, and PayPal), and I've successfully reported security bugs to them. Google, I would suggest, has a pretty good idea of who I am.

Which is why I was somewhat confused to receive this email a few days ago:
GooglePlus Warning-fs8

My initial thoughts were... ‮!ti kcuf ‭

Who uses Google Plus? I don't! Earlier this year I wrote a mildly popular blog-post about how to make your G+ profile private. Frankly, I think Google+ is a massive mistake and I actively resent the rare occasions when I have to use it. Having my G+ blocked? No great loss.

Until I went to YouTube...

YouTube Disabled-fs8

Arse! Because of Google's relentless desire to force the shit-sandwich of G+ down everyone's throats, they made me link my YouTube and G+ pages. What utter ‮.sniatsknaw‭

I use YouTube as part of my professional portfolio. Clients often ask me to share on YouTube a video of what I'm building them. I also monetise some of my videos - Google pays that money straight into my registered business account WHICH HAS THE SAME BLOODY NAME ON IT AS EVERY-SODDING-THING ELSE!

Right. Ok. Deep breath. What magic incantation do I have to do in order to appease the Google gods?

Gplus fucknuggets-fs8

Yeah... I'm that popular that someone wants to make a "fan page" for me. If you are one of my hordes of rabid fans - I'd rather you fed me horse-crap than created a G+ page.

Fine... Here we go!

Gplus fartgoblins-fs8

I've never been quite so glad to live in the industrialised world with enough funds to buy a Government issued ID! I was also feeling pretty smug that I'd had the wherewithal to save a photo of my passport for just such an occasion.

Of course, lots of people have a copy of my passport. Every job interview I've been to has taken a copy. Every hotel I've stayed in wants my details. Countless bars, bank-tellers, travel agents, and HR staff have had their grubby paws on my passport. If someone was pretending to me - how hard would it be to obtain a copy of my passport?

Or, why bother - I'm pretty sure that the monkey-fiddlers at Google wouldn't know a fake passport if it bit them on the meatus. But screw it, let's upload it and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

It was at this point I began to get worried for all my other Google-linked services.

  • G+ was down, so I couldn't share my location with my wife.
  • No YouTube - which meant grovelling to clients.
  • Analytics seemed fine. Oh, yes, Google has validated several of my websites which have my name in the WHOIS. If I'm impersonating myself, it's a long con.
  • All my apps were still available in the app store. If someone was impersonating me - they were free to infect Android phones with whatever piss they liked.
  • Gmail - thank the maker that they didn't destroy my Gmail! Ok - everyone hates email, but it is kind of a necessary evil.
  • Hangouts - luckily I've abandoned Google's pathetic chat offering for something more stable and secure.
  • Wallet - weirdly, Google was quite content to let me send and receive money through them. Fraudtastic!
  • Who knows what else?! The ADHD-addled toddlers there have so many half-finished ideas lying about, that it's possible I.... OOOH! SOMETHING SHINY! LET'S "SUNSET" THE BORING STUFF!!!!!!

While I waited, I realised that I'd been given a bit of a wake-up call. There's no due-process with multinational corporations. One lives and dies entirely at their whim. The feeling of helplessness when faced with an uncaring monolith is profoundly depressing.

A day later, and G+ had decided that my account was legitimate.

Gplus appeal cloaca-fs8

It's not much of an apology - and I particularly like the way that they continue to imply that I did something wrong and should stick to their terms & conditions.

But, sadly, that didn't solve all the problems created by the vomit-munchers in Mountain View.

Several hundred YouTube videos set to private. What a gloriously twuntish thing to do. Of course, rolling back a change is a bit too hard for the flange-ticklers at Google. Move Fast And Break Customers' Things!

YouTube does offer a bulk editing tool - but I couldn't use it. Around half my videos were already set to private or unlisted - mostly the ones I share either with clients or close friends. So I had to painstakingly go through every single one to validate what I wanted to do with it - all the while cursing every Google employee.

*click* cockwombles *click* cloaca drippings *click* litter-bugs *click* melon-farmers *click* toad-lickers *click*.

Finally, all was fixed. I was out of Google purgatory.

Gplay toadlickers-fs8

Oh shove a duck up my arse and serve me for Christmas dinner! What fresh hell is this?

An utterly ancient app - which I probably should have removed years ago - is all of a sudden in violation? Of what? Literally all the app does is play that dramatic "Dah-dah-daaaaaaaah" sound. That's it! It doesn't impersonate anyone. I don't even think it works on modern phones. I'd be jiggered if anyone downloaded it in the last couple of years. What kind of nincompoop would design a system which would mark that as...

Oh, just forget it. I'm done.

I've no way of knowing what has caused these problems. It could be an innocent mistake, an internal or external party with a vendetta, something I've done... But there's no way for me to find out. Google doesn't do customer services - that's part of its business plan. Got a problem? Feel free to kindly piss right off.

That's no way to live. Constantly in fear that one day the most powerful information gatekeeper on the planet can decide you are persona non grata.

It's time to start moving away from Google. I know it won't be easy, but it's now obvious it is the right thing to do. If I'd been away on holiday, or couldn't afford ID, or wasn't acquainted with several Google employees - this could have been an absolute disaster.

It's not going to plain sailing either - running services is hard. But if it goes wrong, I will only have myself to blame - not some faceless giblet-flicker a thousand miles away.

Google have broken my trust - and they aren't getting it back. Wankers.

12 thoughts on “The Day Google Deleted Me

  1. I reckon you're right. Lacking your tech skills it's a scary thing but I'll try to find a way to move my stuff to a server I control. Which, apart from the wizardry I do not master, even fear, brings another problem: I could use a shared server, a dedicated server or set up a server in my cellar and tie it to my internet provider. All "partners" are more or less prone to go down or be acquired by a larger body, like MS, FB, ABC (Google) or a cable company. Leaving me low and wet.
    Them clouds, they're getting me misted over and want me retreating to a Nokia Communicator. As long as I can whatsapp I'm digitally alive. And who cares about my website anyway? Even me is lardy-assed to update it, although improvements are on it's way before 2016...
    All in all: I agree but what's left to do for the average not-even-semi-tech guy?
    (For clips you could use tech smith. I have an older version of Jing, making flv's but I'm looking into their other programs (exe's, app's whatever it's called nowadays))

    I don't react too often but your mails are good eye-openers!

  2. What will you migrate to? A self hosted solution or another vendor's cloud solution? Secondly as your an Android user will you be migrating off that too? It sounds really bad and provides a wake up call, that you can easily be deleted by a single service provide which, if that's all you use, would be catastrophic.

    1. Hi Rob,
      At the moment the plan is to self host the videos. I can afford generous storage and bandwidth costs - and will be creating local backups.
      I've already moved away from Google's Android and use CyanogenMod. The rest of the services... well, that'll take some time to figure out.
      T

  3. Quite a chilling story. It worries me that a service (which tries very hard to make itself essential part of your life) let's your butt swinging in the wind when you really need them.

    The only reason I have a paid Google Apps account is that it comes with a 7*24 phone number (note to self: check if this is still the case) where you can talk with a human. I hope, I'll never have to find out if that backup really delivers a restore ;-).

    Shared your story on G+ as your account there seems to be in lockdown too :-(.

  4. I recommend DuckDuckGo for search and OpenStreetmap for mapping. Vimeo is different to YouTube, but probably better suited for professional stuff than YouTube, as it's not quite so full of bootlegs and funny cats.

    1. Thanks Dan, I'm already on DDG. I've decided to self-host my videos (see tomorrow's post).

  5. Welcome to the ex-Googlers 🙂 I too had that realisation that I was trusting every single one of my precious eggs to someone else's one rickety basket.

    Fastmail is an excellent replacement for Gmail and is better in many respects.

    As others have said DDG is generally ok, though I have to admit I do have to go back to Google search occasionally for dev queries.

    I also switched to Windows Mobile, which is fine if you're happy to put up with some buggy/missing apps.

    http://blog.jamiek.it/2013/08/giving-up-google.html

  6. Startpage.com also has an encrypted email service, paid but more likely to be available when you want it. As long as you understand that the big G, Facebook etc. are all advertising agencies who collect more information about you than your Government does and uses it to their advantage then stay happy with them and keep using their "services" otherwise run, don't walk, away.

  7. Old post but amusing nevertheless. OK, maybe you did not find it that amusing back then.

    Anyway, you put all your eggs in one basket. It was bound to end up in tears sooner or latter. Even if you insist on using Gurgle's "services", I imagine you can very well do so using different accounts and aliases.

    But the whole point of the web, as it was initially conceived and as it's still evolving despite those hoarding wankers at a handful of big companies, is that you can run things yourself and/or decentralise as convenient.

    Google account? What for? I haven't got one and I live a rather fulfilling life.

    In fact, I've got no online accounts with any of the usual suspects. One with my hosting provider, one with OpenStreetMap, one in GitLab (no, not GitHub), used to report bugs back to them (otherwise I self-host). That's the full extent of them. Back in 2004 or so when Flickr first came out I had an account with them, until they got bought by Yahoo. Never accepted the new terms & co's.

    Email, XMPP, and self-hosted Nextcloud do the job just fine, thank you.

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