Protecting Your Google Account from Personal Catastrophes

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UPDATE (September 12, 2017): The Google Account “Please Help Me!” Flood

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In response to many queries, I’ve written quite a bit about issues that can sometimes go wrong with Google Accounts, and how to proactively help to avoid these situations, e.g.:

“The Saga of a Locked-Out Google User” – https://lauren.vortex.com/2017/09/05/the-saga-of-a-locked-out-google-user

“I’ve been locked out of my Google account! What can I do? How can I prevent this in the future? HELP!” – https://lauren.vortex.com/archive/001159.html

“Do I really need to bother with Google’s 2-Step Verification system? I don’t need more hassle and my passwords are pretty good.” – https://plus.google.com/+LaurenWeinstein/posts/avKcX7QmASi

Yet while Google Account problems can sometimes occur despite users’ best efforts, proper use of the tools and systems that Google already provides can go a long way toward avoiding these unfortunate events — with use of recovery addresses/mobile phone numbers, and 2-factor authentication tools among the most important. Unfortunately, many users don’t bother to pay attention to these until *after* they’re having problems.

There are other extremely useful Google tools for protecting your Google Account as well, and like so many good things Google, the firm (for reasons difficult for many observers to fathom) doesn’t always do a particularly good job of publicizing these — demonstrated by the fact that so many even long-time Google users don’t even know that these exist until I mention them. Let’s cover a few of these.

A biggie is Google Takeout, at:

https://google.com/takeout

This is an incredible resource, providing the capability for you to download virtually all of your data stored at Google — selectively or en masse — across the wide range of Google services. This is a world-class tool — if only every other firm offered something like this. You can download your data to take it elsewhere, or just on general principles if you prefer. It’s up to you. The next time that some Google Hater starts ranting the lie that Google somehow locks up your data, you’ll know how to respond to them.  

One limitation to Takeout is that you must use it while you still have access to your Google Account. If you’re locked out or otherwise unable to use the account, you can’t access Takeout to reach your data.

So what happens to your data if you’re in an accident, or become ill, or worse? Nobody likes to think about these sorts of possibilities, but they’re very real.

Google’s “Inactive Account Manager” is the tool that lets you proactively plan for such situations:

https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/3036546

This tool lets you designate a Trusted Contact who will have access to the parts of your Google data that you specify, if your Google Account becomes inactive for a period of time that you indicate. With so much of our lives online now, this is an extremely important tool that you’ve likely never heard of before. 

But remember, like with Takeout, you must set it up *before* the need to actually use it arises.

Related to Inactive Account Manager, there is another Google Accounts associated link that none of us ever wants to visit, though realistically many of us may eventually need to.

A Google form to “Submit a request regarding a deceased user’s account” exists at:

https://support.google.com/accounts/troubleshooter/6357590 

Its purpose is self-explanatory, and as it notes, proactive use of Inactive Account Manager can avoid needing this form in many situations — but Google has provided this form as a means to communicate with them directly in these circumstances when necessary.

Google has obviously given a lot of thought to these issues, and their teams have put a lot of work into implementations and deployments of associated services and tools. 

My primary criticisms in this context are that despite these excellent efforts, too many honest users still fall through the cracks and become trapped in account lockout situations through no faults of their own — and often with no perceived practical recourse — and that Google often does a poor job of publicizing the high quality tools that they have already created to deal with a range of user account issues.

Google’s technology is always excellent. Their public communications, outreach, and user support — especially for non-techie users — can be significantly less so.

One thing is certain. Google and its immensely talented Googlers have the capacity to significantly improve in these latter three areas, given the will to do so and an appropriate allocation of resources to these ends.

I have faith that Google will ultimately accomplish this, in the interests of Google itself, for their vast numbers of users, and toward the betterment of the community at large.

–Lauren–

The Saga of a Locked-Out Google User

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ALSO (March 25, 2016): I’ve been locked out of my Google account! What can I do? How can I prevent this in the future? HELP! 

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With the help of the Google Accounts team (thanks!), whom I reached through my informal channels at Google, a desperate user who contacted me — locked out of her G account since before the Labor Day weekend — including all of her associated personal and business data — has now been restored to full access.

This is by no means the first time that I’ve been involved in such a situation. In fact I’ve proceeded this way on multiple occasions when Google users reach out to me in desperation, after failing with all of the “normal” Google account recovery methods — through no fault of their own.

I am glad to help when I can, but as I emphasize to them, I do not currently have any official connection with Google, and I cannot guarantee any particular results.

Even more to the point, I shouldn’t be needed to do this at all!

Google Account recovery procedures and appeal flows should be designed to deal with these situations correctly in the first place.

It’s wrong that users feel it necessary to come to me with these kinds of Google problems, having gotten my name from their friends, web pages, or stories they heard about on radio.

By the time that they reach me, they’re upset beyond measure, and feel that Google has abandoned them.

Google can do a whole lot better!

Again, thanks very much to the Accounts Team and everyone else at G who helped to get this user back online with her Google account.

–Lauren–

The Vile Monster Donald Trump Stabs the DACA Dreamers in their Backs

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Donald Trump has now clearly revealed himself to be the monster that so many of us have long suspected him to be. A vile, racist, lying creature of evil.

Remember how he kept saying that the DACA Dreamers would be OK? These are 800 thousand kids who know no home other than the USA — brought here very young by their parents and not of their own free will. Kids who have grown into productive jobs of all kinds — and in our own military protecting our country. Kids who have provided the government with their personal information because they were promised that it would never be used against them.

Remember how Trump repeatedly said that they had nothing to worry about? That he was going to show them great heart?

That’s all now exposed as the worst kind of lies by a man who isn’t even really a man any more — he’s the Gollum of politics, a perverted little creature whose mind has been twisted by greed and power. Trump is such a quivering coward that he sent out his minion Jeff Sessions to announce the termination of DACA — rather than showing up to make the announcement himself.

The GOP must cast him out of the White House as the vermin he is, a malignant disease in the body of this great country. He must be banished back to his world of real estate cons and gold-plated toilets.

And Congress must act to permanently protect the DACA Dreamers. Right now.

Or the same ignominious fate awaiting Trump awaits you all as well.

You can count on it.

–Lauren–