Posted August 6, 2008 9:51 am by with 32 comments

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If you’re an avid Google user, you may wish to read this post sitting down. Chris Brogan documents the sorry tale of Nick Saber’s complete and utter denial by Google. After returning from lunch, Saber was unable to access his Gmail, Google Talk, Google Docs, or Picasa–and he was a paying Google customer!

When he tried to log in, he saw this message:

Sorry, your account has been disabled. [?]

When he contacted Google he received this reply:

Thank you for your report. We’ve completed our investigation. Because our
investigation was inconclusive, we are unable to return your account at
this time. At Google we take the privacy and security of our users very
seriously. For this reason, we’re unable to reveal any further information
about this account.

The good news is that, 30 hours later, Saber’s account is now back up and running. And, reading the comments, this could have been resolved much faster by calling Google’s support for paying customers. Still, the scares the heck out of me. My email, docs, calendar, instant messenger, analytics–just about everything–is hosted with Google.

I’ve already experienced first hand the pain of being shutout by Google, but this is a wake-up call to all of us that let some other company host our data. That company can shut you off without warning!

Scary, huh?

(image credit)

  • Scares the crap outta me.

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  • This is scary … Is there any indication at all of what may have caused this action or was it a total shocker?

    In other words this Saber do something that triggered this action or was it an action by an unknown 3rd party that shut Saber down?


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  • Yikes! After the weekend I had with Twitter (, this post is particularly scary.

    I think I may have to break out my typewriter and address book and go old school again. Does anyone have an extra typewriter ribbon?


  • Andy,
    I agree – it’s disconcerting. Google can be dictators. Like you it makes me nervous depending on something you could have pulled without notice.
    I got shut out of Google Adsense years ago but eventually got my account back.
    This year my blog went down because my credit card on file at Bluehost was expired. No email or warning.
    I learned the hard way that WordPress can also shut down your blog (if they host it) for even so much as one link that’s on their kill list.
    When something is free you can stomach it but when you pay you expect more.
    Google needs to address this – it’s surprising they haven’t already. Next time you’re on a press call, maybe you could ask what they plan to do about it and let us know their answer.

  • Never… ever… put all your eggs in one basket. Especially one that can simply shut you down. It’s even more frustrating than having a hard drive crash.

  • (Math is hard, Andy. I almost failed your capcha).

    To answer a comment, they never said what Nick did or didn’t do. He doesn’t even know if someone hacked his account and that was the issue. Nothing back. I saw the emails.

    Regarding eggs and baskets, let’s say that the data wasn’t important. It was. Picasa had some family photos. Docs had some account information. Yes, it was backed up elsewhere.

    BUT, what you wouldn’t necessarily think to back up are all the places you’ve used your gmail account as a key to get in, etc. Think about this as having all your keys stop working, all your passwords, all your access.

    In fact, if we went a step out, this would be a conversation about the potential for MASSIVE lockout by losing a core centralized account. Software isn’t written to allow for two keys today. We know the drill. Username/password. There isn’t a “2ndUsername” option or anything.

    Strange, eh?

    Chris Brogan…’s last blog post..What I Want PR and Marketing Professionals To Know

  • All the more reason not to rely on Google for anything.

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  • I worry about it (in the back of my mind) but I think I also take the “It will never happen to me” mentality. Is there something that backs up Google services?

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  • @Chris – what scares me the most is, what happens to my data? Do I need to back-up all of it? If Google decides to change the locks, it should at least let me back inside the house to get my stuff! 😉

  • Yeah that’s some scary stuff… seems the best way is to back it all up. Not worth it to risk it?

  • Not sure how scary this is, just factually what Google can and will do if they feel like it. Who owns the information within their products? Thanks, but I will stick to downloading all my mail to Outlook from a server I control.

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  • Why Google locked Nick out:

    Interesting method for Customer Service.

    Chris Brogan…’s last blog post..Google Gets Back to Nick

  • I am amazing to me the pain Google can inflict in so many ways. With Google it seems to be live by the sword, die by the sword.

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  • It’s really krappy the power companies have over you.

    I just lost my Facebook account last Friday for adding 40 friends in a day. That was it. No spaming, no nothing.

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  • I agree, I wrote about this earlier when my gmail account was inaccessible.

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  • I actually encountered a “temporary suspension” 2 weeks ago (on 7/24). It lasted for all of 10 minutes, but it freaked me out. One minute, I was chatting on Gtalk — the next minute, Gtalk died on me and so did Gmail. I logged back onto Gmail and got the same message that Nick received. I checked the help document and it started working. I panicked for a bit, and I can imagine it would suck if that actually happened to me for real. I still don’t know why I got the temporary suspension, but I do have a screenshot of it:

    Oh, and Andy, I was at Barnes and Noble today, and I saw Radically Transparent on the bookshelf! Face-front! See?

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  • @tamar – that sucks about your account. Thanks for the book photo!

  • I am yet too small for this to affect me. But it is scary nevertheless. Best is perhaps not to depend on them for storage of data.

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  • It’s getting mean and mean everytime !

  • “Saber was unable to access his Gmail, Google Talk, Google Docs, or Picasa–and he was a paying Google customer”

    A paying customer for what? I can only think of AdWords, although there could be a couple more paid services (CSE, for example). I think it is wrong to start the argument against Google by stating that he was a paying customer… should the non-paying ones have any less rights? I don’t think so.
    Google tends not to provide any explanation for closed accounts, true, and the rationale behind it is to avoid giving away what exactly it is they are tracking and taking into account when making such decisions.
    While I’m not defending Google in any way, I really believe we need to know more in order to formulate an opinion. No smoke without a fire, that’s what I’m saying.

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  • PS3

    I’ve had a bad week of similar problems.

    Logged into Gmail from work and got a captcha that I’d never seen before. Filled that in and it came back, so I assumed I’d made a mistake. Tried again and it came up with the “account disable message”.

    I knew I had the captcha right the second time and my heart sank – I was expecting a reasonable sum of Amazon vouchers into the account amongst other things.

    By the time I got home everything was back to normal. Well, except for my Adwords account – they’d just taken a $50 top up payment, everything is showing as “active”, yet no ads displaying. Finally get a mail from Google saying my Adwords account is suspended, but no reason…what the…

    That one is not resolved (:

  • Conclusion: don’t use Big Brother tools anymore.

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  • yes ture… It’s getting mean and mean everyday !

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  • almost fail your math test there….
    ” A paying customer for what? ” … the answer is out there….

  • @Jason: my braincell is in lunch break right now, so I’m not getting the math test reference…
    Anyway, I understand now he was a premium Google Apps customer, thanks.
    The article itself does not mention this, nor does it refer to the Apps program. It’s mentioned calling the ‘Google support’ – that’s way too broad a notion to understand that it was, in fact, support for Google Apps. As for the enumeration of services (unable to access his Gmail, Google Talk, Google Docs, or Picasa), these are available through any Google account.
    Happy weekend everybody!

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  • Does anyone know a good way to backup all my Gmail emails?

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  • That’s pretty scary stuff — but, as you said, the danger of letting a third party have all your information. Not to mention that when you sign up to use any company’s services, you usually silently give up most of your rights through agreeing to their EULA. The law’s on the company’s side, not yours.

  • What I want to know is why did you get shut down to begin with? Obviously you did something to receive this treatment. Tell us the whole truth, not just your version without all the facts.

  • It amazes me as to how some people automatically assume that there must be more. I can say that I have been suspended from adwords on my site, actually the best thing that happened to me, My other site that has never used adwords and is organically grown does substantially better. To this day I have not been able to find out why I was suspended, other than I was having a spam problem which was reported to Google and was told your problem not ours. So I think we tend to believe in the benevolence of large corps to much instead of realizing that they are for profit and not for your assisstance. When you have no defence and are assumed guilty and convicted by google there is no recourse .

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