The Cloud Is Great -- Until Google Closes Your Account

The Cloud Is Great -- Until Google Closes Your Account

For the past few years, Google has been pushing the idea of Chrome OS and the Chromebook. The idea is simple: Shift your data into the cloud, carry a tiny device that connects to all your online information, and let Google worry about the heavy lifting. Less discussed is the question of what happens if Google decides you've violated its Terms of Service and shuts down your account.

That's what happened to Slate contributor Tienlon Ho, and the aftermath wasn't pretty. Google's notification included no specific details on why his account had been closed. He'd lost access to all of his data, including files stored on Google Drive, email, and shared documents. Tienlon goes on to note that Google's TOS -- the same TOS he'd somehow broken -- give Google the right to terminate your service at any time, for any reason. Google's liability for the services it provides is limited to the amount you pay them on a monthly basis.

If you don't pay for Google, that means they owe you nothing. Period. Ever. Ho eventually got access to his account restored, after six days, but notes:
My data was intact save for the last thing I’d worked on–a spreadsheet containing a client’s account numbers and passwords. It seems that Google’s engineers determined this single document violated policy and locked down my entire account. My request to get that document back is still pending.

Wake Up And Smell The Coffee

It's time for consumers to recognize the flip side to cloud computing. Your cloud providers owe you nothing. If you use Dropbox, or Microsoft SkyDrive, or Google, underneath the talk of providing backup service and a convenient storage location, they sell you nothing. You aren't buying security. You aren't buying guaranteed recovery. You are buying the right to store data online, at their convenience. If they decide to stop offering the service, you have no recourse.


...until we say so.

Even pay services run by this model, as do most backup companies. Yank the Terms of Service for online backup services, and you'll find that they make no guarantees about the reliability and accuracy of their encryption. They are under no obligation to recover your data, and you're limited to the monthly fee you pay them as far as recovering any losses you may suffer.

Someone at Google decided that Ho's spreadsheet violated TOS. There was no conversation or appeals process, no discussion or a warning. Just a summary execution. That should be a wake-up call to anyone who uses online services; the companies that run these services are under no particular obligation to entertain your pleas for clemency.

If you care about your data, back it up locally. Not because Google, or Microsoft, or Amazon are evil, but because giant corporations with millions of users and highly automated usage policies are, by nature, extremely difficult to appeal to. It took Ho six days to get his account back, and he's missing the last, vital spreadsheet. Under certain circumstances, that spreadsheet could've contained data worth thousands of dollars. Losing email access at the wrong time could mean losing access to critical, time-sensitive documents.

"The cloud" isn't just a term to describe storing data up in the sky. It's a nifty description of just how solid your footing is up there. Assume the floor is made of wood at your own peril.
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This is one of the many reasons I don't use any cloud service and never will. I have icloud just to backup my contacts and even then it's just to restore to a new one as I keep a local file with my address book as well.

The cloud is only good and really safe for disposable files.

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If he relied only on the cloud, then he is a *** moron to begin with. The cloud is there for redundancy, not reliability.

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I assume that everyone saying "Relying on the cloud is moronic" keeps a full, local backup of your Gmail account.

Right?

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Joel H:

I assume that everyone saying "Relying on the cloud is moronic" keeps a full, local backup of your Gmail account.

Right?

Only the important emails I get. I also scrub my gmail account about every other month so there may be only a couple hundred in there at any given time and while important emails are in there I also have the information backed up somewhere on my home server.

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I gotta agree with MayhemMatthew. Personally, I don't see anything wrong with using cloud storage, just don't really on it. Save locally.

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Like yall said the cloud is a cool thing to use but in the end for whatever reason it could be gone in an instant. Google Drive is great and so is Box but they are only used to share files to a few people so we can all access and change them but in the end one of us has a copy saved locally just in case.

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The unfortunate truth is that our data is never going to be truly safe. If its on paper it can get lost or destroyed easily by many many things more importantly it can get stolen. well in all accounts it can get stolen in different ways but my point is yes this can happen with a cloud service like this but even if you have it locally saved if you dont have it saved in the cloud and your hard drive suddenly fails or storm surge or anything like that its gone forever. At least in this case he was able to get back. Im not justifying or promoting cloud storage its just the sad reality that everything is vulnerable so yeah i guess im really just adding to everyone elses comments that should have a multiple back ups in as many places as possible in case some crazy like this happens or in case something crazy happens with his local copies.

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Google Drive is atrocious. We try to use it at my job because of the sharing component but it screws up the formatting so much it ends up being moot. I would never use it as my first option.

The cloud part sounds interesting...but I'm not ready to commit to this type of thing, especially when I don't even own a smartphone.

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Google drive isn't bad, but anything more than simple formatting and I agree it does a poor job but then again for being free I can't complain since I don't use it for anything complex.

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This is exactly why I keep everything backed up in like 3+ places of redundant backups. Call me paranoid but I've still never gotten comfortable with the idea of having my personal data stored on someone's server somewhere far far away.

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