Monday, 25 July 2011

Switched Off

Two days ago I wrote:

"Whilst data theft is perhaps the most obvious risk, users should also think carefully about the reliability of a service and continuity of access. Service providers can fail or simply withdraw a service; governments and laws change with dizzying frequency; infrastructures may collapse and any of these can result in a user being separated (either temporarily or permanently) from his data."

Even as I was drafting those words, it seems that Google was deleting a "striking number" of accounts leaving some of its users with no access to their data: one Google user, Thomas Monopoly, wrote on TwitLonger:

"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..."

It's only fair to point out that the users that have had their accounts deleted may well have been in breach of Google+ T&C (although there seems to be little evidence that everyone who had their account closed is guilty of an infraction), but it seems that the penalties for violations can be pretty brutal - even William Shatner has reportedly fallen foul of Google's reprisals!

The lesson is clear: do not rely on capricious corporations to protect you or your data!

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