Weaning Off The Google
Or, How I’m Continuing to use Google’s Products Without A Sense of Existential Dread
My First Brush With Account Recovery Tyranny
Just over five years ago, my wife and I decided to leave Canada for South Africa, and with all the madness of the migration (after six months of being new parents with no support, we left in a big rush to be close to our family) it never occurred to me to ensure that our email accounts were all configured correctly for where we were going. When we finally arrived after two weeks of frenzied selling and packing (and deciding which half of our lives to leave behind) and two days of hard travelling, I thought I’d log in to check my emails.
Google detected that we were logging in from a different country, and wanted us to authenticate using our mobile numbers. Which had been disconnected the day before we left. As some of you may have had the misfortune of discovering, there are no human beings to speak to when attempting to recover access to a Google account, the entire process is automated and even knowing everything about your account (including your personal information, who you last communicated with, previous passwords, etc.) is no guarantee that you’re going to get it back.
We were very, VERY lucky that a really kind support agent of our Canadian mobile carrier was willing (and able) to reinstate my released number temporarily and read me back the verification codes, and even though we were forced to pay out the nose for that little service it was well worth not losing… pretty much everything that matters to a 21st century digital person.
A Reminder That It’s A False Sense Of Security
After successfully recovering our accounts, we put the experience behind us and made a mental note to sort out account verification before the next time we move. We have continued to use our gmail accounts as primary email addresses for a thousand other services, further entrenching our already-heavy reliance on a service that’s “easy come, easy go”.
A few months ago I read an article on Medium, What it’s like to get locked out of…