Why you shouldn't trust Google (or any cloud service) with your data [UPDATE]

Why you shouldn't trust Google (or any cloud service) with your data [UPDATE]

Summary: Getting ready to enthusiastically shovel all your data into the cloud? Here's a cautionary tale of what can happen when your connection to that data is pulled because of accusations that you violated Terms of Service.

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TOPICS: Google
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[UPDATE - This issue has now been resolved. Apparently it was down to to an automated system that Google users to scan storage for ToS violations.]

Getting ready to enthusiastically shovel all your data into the cloud? Here's a cautionary tale of what can happen when your connection to that data is pulled because of accusations that you violated Terms of Service.

This is what happened to one Google Apps user Thomas Monopoly (a pseudonym, although now after being called a fake he's changed his name to Dylan M ... his real first name). He was a happy user (and evangelist it seems) of numerous Google services --  until  the company disabled his Google account. On July 15 he received an automated message telling him that Google had 'perceived a violation' and since then hasn't been able to access anything linked to that account. Monopoly vehemently denies claims that he did anything wrong and says that he "did not violate any Terms of Service, either Google's or account specific ToS" and that Google hasn't offered up any evidence to support its claim of a violation.

So how much data did Monopoly lose when Google pulled the plug on his account? A mindbogglingly scary amount:

I had spent maybe four months slowly consolidating my entire online presence, email accounts, banking info, student records, etc, into that one Google account, having determined it to be reliable. That means in terms of information, approximately 7 years of correspondence, over 4,800 photographs and videos, my Google Voice messages, over 500 articles saved to my Google Reader account for scholarship purposes.

...

I have lost all of my bookmarks, having used Google bookmarks.

...

I have also lost access to my Docs account with shared documents and backups of inventory files. I have also lost my Calendar access. With this I have lost not only my own personal calendar of doctors appointments, meetings, and various other dates, but I have also lost collaborative calendars, of which I was the creator and of which several man hours were put into creating, community calendars that are now lost.

...

I have also lost my saved maps and travel history. I have also lost in my correspondence medical records and a variety of very important notes that were attached to my account. My website, a blogger account for which I purchased the domain through Google and designed myself, has also been disabled and lost.

I encourage you to read the rest of Monopoly's letter to Google.

Monopoly has made numerous attempts to contact Google, all of which have so far been unsuccessful. Through Twitter he has managed to attract the attention of Matt Cutts, head of Google's webspam team. Not the right person, but Cutts is both prolific and very active on Twitter, so it could be his best bet for getting this problem resolved.

Now I know what some of you are thinking - Google offers a lot of free services and, bottom line, you get what you pay for. If you think like this then you're missing the point. Google isn't offering a 'free lunch,' it's an exchange. You use Google's services and in exchange Google gets to show you ads or promote its brand or whatever. It's not free. It's a business transaction of sorts. The least that Google  (and other providers of 'free' services) could do is offer some arbitration mechanism. Scrubbing a user off the face of the web is not the way to go.

Oh, and this sort of behavior isn't confined to 'free' services either. One example: earlier this year the photo hosting service Flickr deleted a pro (paid for) account belonging to a photographer, along with 3,400 photos (the account was later recovered, but again only following a backlash in the media). Thankfully these sorts of problems are rare, but the problem is that when they happen, customers don't have anyone they can turn to in order to get the problem solved. It seems that the big corporations just hope that people who have lost data will quietly go away.

That's wrong.

If you're thinking of putting your data in the cloud, you'd also better think about what happens if your access to that data is cut off - because it can happen.

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Topic: Google

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63 comments
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  • RE: Why you shouldn't trust Google (or any cloud service) with your data

    CC to: Chromebook fans.
    Raju Das
    • Thankfully at least Apple understands that people want to *own* their ...

      @Raju Das: ... information, so the new iCloud service is more synchronisation service, rather than cloud storage.

      Not that Apple's specific solution is perfectly safe from troubles in case of blockage, but still better than totally cloud-storage Google (and similar) services.
      DDERSSS
      • They all suck.

        @DeRSSS

        Any cloud service is a joke... But you got it right, Apple is more or less using the cloud to make customers lives easier.

        But anyone who trusts their data to any cloud is a moron. I'll argue that and win every time. There is no situation where not having control over your own data is a good idea. If it's worthwile enough to save it, then it's worthwhile enough to control it. Giving it to any schmuck cloud company means that they have your data, any of their employees can do anything with it, including, stealing it, not backing it up, losing it, holding it hostage, etc. It doesn't matter if it's personal data or business data, if you care about it then don't give it away to strangers.
        i8thecat3
      • RE: Why you shouldn't trust Google (or any cloud service) with your data

        @i8thecat3 +1 :D
        MrElectrifyer
    • RE: Why you shouldn't trust Google (or any cloud service) with your data

      @Raju Das chromebooks really suck anyway.
      Jimster480
    • RE: Why you shouldn't trust Google (or any cloud service) with your data

      @Raju Das ... Very good point. Chrome is like MS; it'll lull you into a false sense of security as it makes it impossible for you to switch to anythnig else in the future without losing all your saved information. You're single-sourced and sol.
      tomaaaaaa1
  • Captain obvious strikes again?

    Isn't this obvious? When you "trust" a company like Google or Microsoft or Yahoo to store your whole life's data, at no cost, they are not accountable to you, nor do they need to answer you.
    You have no leverage unless you're paying them cash, and can talk to a real human.
    kraterz
    • You don't have any leverage even if you are paying them ...

      @kraterz Read the TOS of any cloud provider, and you will find that you have NO recourse if they decide out of the blue to do something to you. And in many cases you can't even take them to court, assuming you had the time and resources to do it.

      And then you throw in interference from outside parties: more than one provider has had servers seized by authorities that affected services to unrelated customers. The authorities really don't care who they trample on these days, and most customers don't even know where their data is hosted, much less what legal process has to be followed. It's all buried under layers of darkness and confusion.

      At the very minimum, if you keep important data in the cloud, have some kind of backup. If you are a business (even a small one) then you need a business continuity plan.
      terry flores
      • RE: ...provider has had servers seized by authorities...

        @terry flores

        Which is exactly the situation a company, we (my employer) were looking at; during the due diligence period. After the review, we could not stomach paying for the company, and the costs to get out of their contracts; so we ended the deal.
        fatman65535
    • RE: Why you shouldn't trust Google (or any cloud service) with your data

      @kraterz ... I think I finally figured out why they chose "cloud" for the name of this long existing, not new in any way service: Clouds drift around aimlessly, are formed and dissipate depending on the air currents and are never stable. Finally, I have a feeling for the source of the misnomer "cloud".
      tomaaaaaa1
  • I want a "personal cloud".

    I would love to see a "personal cloud" design. All the sync and goodness of the best of Amazon/Google (streaming), iCloud (amazing sync) rolled up and integrated into a deliverable package that I control at my home.

    A single time purchase and if I want 1TB or cloud data, I go buy a new hard drive.
    Bruizer
    • RE: Why you shouldn't trust Google (or any cloud service) with your data

      @Bruizer Amen and +1 to this idea. A turnkey home-hosted cloud appliance. Basically, something even simpler than Windows Home Server. Plug it in, turn it on, done.
      BillDem
      • RE: Why you shouldn't trust Google (or any cloud service) with your data

        I tried to get SVJN interested in writing about open source cloud products when articles were appearing on ZDNet about Apple vs. Google cloud models, but he never even responded to my message let alone seized on the idea. :-(
        jgm2
      • RE: Why you shouldn't trust Google (or any cloud service) with your data

        @BillDem Odd, they left my post critical of SVJN but a long post I wrote you about checking out the Linux Action Show podcast episode online "Build Your Own Cloud" and describing for you all of the free tools you can use to have your own cloud for free disappeared. That's WEIRD.
        jgm2
      • RE: Why you shouldn't trust Google (or any cloud service) with your data

        @BillDem ... With no attenton to security and the presence or not of same? I'm sure you could beat the likes of Sony but there are always security holes in products. I'll admit it's safer than the misnomer "clouds" though.
        tomaaaaaa1
    • RE: Why you shouldn't trust Google (or any cloud service) with your data

      @Bruizer

      Crashplan closest thing to what you are talking about. It is pretty slick.

      http://www.crashplan.com
      rangband
      • RE: Why you shouldn't trust Google (or any cloud service) with your data

        @rangband

        +1. We recommend it to all of our clients.
        PlayFair
    • RE: Why you shouldn't trust Google (or any cloud service) with your data

      @Bruizer CSC in Windows with a Home VPN set up is the way to go. Have a file server, mount a network drive (or several) on all of your devices, and enable CSC. All of the files in that network location gets cached locally on the computer, so you have them locally when you want them. Need them to be updated? Connect home through a VPN and all your stuff is right there.

      With a mobile device, there are many apps on every platform where you can play music and videos from files on a shared location. Just log into the home VPN, and all your stuff is right there.

      Some NAS devices, such as Synology, have apps and web UI's for listening to music even away from home or on mobile devices. These are even easier to set up.

      Its really easy to set up either way you go.
      vel0city
      • I have most of the parts, but it is a RPITA.

        @vel0city

        I am at the point I don't want to diddle and tinker and tweak and configure. Piece here piece there. This app works one way this other app a different way.

        All the integrated solutions be it from Amazon, Google or Apple are still built around them holding the data.
        Bruizer
    • RE: Why you shouldn't trust Google (or any cloud service) with your data

      @Bruizer Open Source to the rescue. http://owncloud.org/index.php/Main_Page
      dequire