Google denies fault over Mail problems

The search giant claims this has only happened in a 'few cases', with poor user account security to blame

Google has admitted that a few users' Google Mail accounts were mistakenly deleted, but the search giant claims it is not responsible.

"We have seen a few cases where users report that their accounts have been deleted, and in each case our investigations have revealed that the accounts were deleted by someone with that account's password. In these cases, we're unfortunately unable to restore accounts," a Google spokeswoman told ZDNet UK on Tuesday.

Google Mail service is known as Gmail in much of the world, but not in the UK as Google ceded the right to that name here after a legal fight. Despite being launched almost exactly two years ago it is still in beta.

To delete an account, users must follow the steps detailed on Google's Web site and must re-enter their account password to confirm the operation.

ZDNet UK asked Google what steps it is taking to ensure that other users cannot hack into an account and delete it. The company replied on Thursday that users should follow its tips on password safety.

But Google Mail user Ali Al Saeed, who has been unable to access his account for over two weeks and fears it has been deleted, said on Thursday he believes Google should send a verification email to an alternative email account before deleting a Google Mail account.

"Even if someone did get my password somehow, shouldn't the original creator of the account be sent some sort of confirmation before actually going ahead with it? Gmail should pick up on that and fix this hole, otherwise it'll be chaos," he said.

Al Saeed claimed that he had not heard back from Google for over a week and was still not sure what was happening with his account. "I've given up. It's futile. They don't seem to bother or care. I've moved to Yahoo now," he said.

Google said it has communicated with Al Saeed, but was unable to share information about his account to protect his privacy.

Last week ZDNet UK wrote about the problems that various users claim to be experiencing with Google Mail, ranging from service downtime to the apparent deletion of accounts and all the information stored therein.

A number of readers replied to the article claiming that they had experienced similar problems. One reader claimed that his girlfriend's Google Mail account had been hacked into, and complained about the poor service he had received from the Google support staff.

"My girlfriend's gmail account has been hacked into twice and had all of her contacts and emails deleted and we've never had a response from Gmail other than automated ones," he said.

"Thus far she has received one call and no one has contacted her to let her know when her account will be back up and running. Their online support is non-existent and there does not seem to be any human being that you can talk to in order to try and sort your account out. I have emailed them three times about this and had no response, and when I've had problems with my account, again, no response."

Another ZDNet UK reader said that he was told his Google Mail account was disabled and has also received no response from the Google support staff.

"I tried to login to Gmail at 8:30am, Sunday, March 26, 2006 and it tells me there's a sector 4 error, and that my account is disabled for 24 hours. I have sent several emails to Gmail support from another account," he said.

Google admitted that some users may experience short-term errors with Gmail, but did not comment on its support staff response time.

"As we make updates to improve and enhance Gmail, some users may see error messages and experience short periods of inaccessibility. These errors are neither persistent nor pervasive, but we take all issues very seriously and resolve them as quickly as possible," said the firm.

"In very rare instances, a user's account may undergo maintenance due to a specific technical issue that requires personal engineering attention. In these cases, the user is notified at the time of sign in, and the support team continually communicates with the user as updates are made. The timeframe to correct the issue may take as long as a number of days, depending on the situation."

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