Final thoughts on my Gmail fiasco

I finally received an email response from Google relating to my disabled account Friday afternoon. It was apologetic and somewhat unsatisfying, but at least gave me a clue as to what happened:Thank you for your report.

I finally received an email response from Google relating to my disabled account Friday afternoon. It was apologetic and somewhat unsatisfying, but at least gave me a clue as to what happened:

Thank you for your report. We sincerely apologize for our delayed response and appreciate your patience and understanding.

After temporarily disabling your account for your security, we have completed our investigation and are re-enabling your access to this account...

Please note that we aren't able to provide you with information about attempted logins to your account including, but not limited to, the IP address from which the attempted login was made, and the time and date attempted logins occurred.

We look forward to having you as a Gmail user again.

It's that last bit that bothers me (not the looking forward to having me as a Gmail user, but not being able to provide me with any information about the login attempts). Again, this points to the real utility of one reader's suggestion: create a value-added premium Gmail service. Many of us would be more than happy to pay some reasonable fee every month to not only have prompt access to customer service (and not wait 3 days to find out that my account was disabled because someone was trying to log into it), but also to be able to get more specific statistics on usage.

Even my school's mediocre ISP shows the last successful or unsuccessful login on my webmail homepage, as well as the DNS entry associated with the login. This is a completely reasonable security check and we all know just how much data Google collects on our usage; Gmail would be even more useful if it gave us back a bit of that information. It seems silly to have to go to the trouble of getting a subpoena for this sort of information if I decide to dig a little further for the culprit that lost me 3 days of emails (all incoming emails were bounced back to the senders).

One good thing that has come out of this, though, is that I've discovered IMAP. I knew what it was before now, but had never bothered using it since I used the Gmail interface for everything. IMAP, however, gets around the problem of concurrency for those people who use webmail applications and mail clients (potentially on more than one machine). It actually synchronizes all of the means you have of accessing an email account and (if you set the correct options) keeps emails available for offline use, as well. It no longer matters if I want to use my mail client (although I haven't decided if I prefer the Gmail interface or Apple Mail), Gmail on a random computer, Gmail on my mobile phone, or even a mail client I might set up on my home server that gets backed up regularly.

I also took the time to export all of my contacts out of Gmail (if only IMAP could handle this, too) and generally tightened up security all around. Fortunately, it was winter break for us, so I had time to deal with this. Three days is still a long time, though. If anyone at Google's listening, give us a premium service with dedicated customer support and faster resolutions; I see one more revenue stream for Google.

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