I just spent 24 hours (almost exactly: see here and here) without access to my Google email account for unknown reasons. Everytime I tried to log-in, a page appeared informing me that my Gmail account had been "temporarily disabled." That meant no access to various important messages regarding my freelance work and finances, correspondence with my family, research notes to myself, and archives of messages that have high emotional value.
I let my contacts know on Facebook and Twitter, purely out of frustration, and heard back from someone who said the same thing happened to her, and that Gmail never allowed her to return to her Inbox. I'm surprised I didn't panic more. Being away from a constant stream of new information, click by click, was slightly refreshing. But ... what if? What if Gmail's all-seeing-eyes found some offending phrases in my messaging and pegged me as some kind of threat to be scrambled? What if my "second life," my email account, was snatched away from me permanently?
Was it that Tom Cruise "creepy" tweet?
I'll never know. In order to regain access to my account, Google told me I had basically one option: Give them a cell phone number where they could send a text message with a verification code to re-activate my account. I tried taking this step with my Mexico cell phone, but Gmail told me "my country" wasn't among those where they do this. I tried a cell phone number in the U.S., and Google also told me "my country" wasn't SMS-retrievable. Huh? I sent I think five different reports/help requests, but I felt like they disappeared in a bin of unwanted bits as soon as I clicked send. I couldn't find any kind of customer service line for Gmail users, no avenue for breathing human interaction within Google's fortresses.
I don't expect ever getting any sort of response, no report for the user on why an account is temporarily disabled, no acknowledgment of my existence. Finally -- again, almost exactly 24 hours later -- my sister's cell phone number in San Diego worked out. But what if I didn't have a cell phone available to pester in the States? What about Gmail users without cell phones? What about ... jeez ... the scores of Gmail users in Mexico?
As far as I see it, for showing up at the right place at the right time, Gmail is now the standard email service among the "younger and richer," essentially, people with higher education who are around 40 or below. But this glitch I just experienced makes me wonder. When will it be appropriate to seriously consider a migration elsewhere? When Google shoves its new Facebook down our throats? When the Wave strikes?
* Previously, "Report: Google, watching everything, is hostile to privacy." For more, see Googlewatch.org.
** Image via The Truth Board.