Google Mail hit with account deletion controversy

Google Mail hit with account deletion controversy

Summary: Problems have been reported with Google's free email service, but Google insists that accounts have not been deleted and it is contacting disgrunted users

TOPICS: Networking

Google's free Web mail service Google Mail has come under attack over the last couple of weeks, with users complaining of problems ranging from service downtime to the deletion of their account and all the information stored there.

ZDNet UK is aware of two Google Mail users who claim that their account has suddenly disappeared along with crucial emails, contact details and attachments.

But a Google spokeswoman said on Thursday that in both cases the account had not been deleted, and that Google was contacting the individuals concerned to resolve the matter.

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 in 2004 is still in beta. Although the advertising-funded service is free to use, some users are unhappy that it appears to have suffered problems.

Ali Al Saeed contacted ZDNet UK on Thursday claiming that he has been unable to access his Gmail account for at least six days.

"Everything I've tried indicates that the account has somehow disappeared. I first got a 'server error', then was told that the 'username and password do not match', then when I tried resetting the password I was told that 'the username does not exist in our system'," he said. "I've been a Gmail user for a long time and all my contacts are on there."

Al Saeed added that he had only received two automated responses from Google's support team and nothing else.

"I'm in the middle of an important project and I'm expecting a lot of emails coming in. I have no backups. I'm annoyed, upset and angry," he said.

Another Google Mail user, known as Bob, also claims to have a similar problem. Bob said that when he tried to log into his Google Mail account, he initially got a server error, so attempted to access his account from the Google Accounts page, where he was given the message: "The account you attempted to access has been deleted. You may click here to sign up for a new account."

"A nightmare come true?!" he wrote in a posting on the Google Blogoscoped blog on 8 March. "Has my Google account really been deleted? I use it religiously and it is my primary email account. I have over 300MB of crucial data in my email, none of which I have backups for."

Bob and Al Saeed are not the only Google Mail users who claim to have experienced problems recently. Various members of staff at ZDNet UK have experienced intermittent, short-term problems when accessing Google Mail account over the past couple of weeks. This has included server errors when trying to access the Google Mail home page.

Similar problems have also been flagged up on various blogs. Chris Gilmer said that he had been experiencing numerous problems and speculated that Google could be rolling out an update.

"It seems as though Gmail has been acting up a lot recently. The system seems to have been encountering server errors, and all sorts of other issues lately," he said in a posting on his blog, The Unofficial Google Weblog.

"Could this be sign of some new updates? New additions to the interface? New features? I guess we will just have to wait and see. Last night it was down for myself [sic] personally for about 30 minutes."

Several people posted comments in response to the blog agreeing that they also had experienced problems.

One Digg user said earlier this month that they were having problems logging into email and using Google Talk, which was integrated with Google Mail for users of the US English version of the interface last month.

"Gmail's chat service seems to be having some trouble. Additionally, I've been having trouble logging into my email," said the Digg posting.

In response, while several people commented that they were not having problems, others agreed that they had experienced similar issues.

Google said on Thursday that the problem could lie with a local server rather than the email service.

"Did you check your local server? We found in some cases that the issues were with the local server, not the application. In the meantime, the Gmail team is further looking into your account to see if there's anything unusual," the company said.

The firm added that the company has not had any reports of serious issues.

"We have not seen reports of persistent outages over long periods of time, but we will continue to investigate. We understand and appreciate that many people rely on Gmail, and we are committed to delivering a reliable email service for our users. We apologise for any inconvenience, and ask that users continue giving us feedback as we work to improve and enhance Gmail," the firm said.

Topic: Networking

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  • So these people have no backups for the 'crucial data' held under someone else's control?

    More fool them!

    How anybody can use a webmail service and not backup their e-mails on their own machine is beyond me, and utterly stupid, so don't cry when something goes wrong and you lose it all.
  • My girlfriend's gamil 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. I had to find their number through directory enquiries (which I had to pay for) and spoke to one of their lawyers, as he was the only person available to help.

    He said that he fully understood the problem but that we must remember that it is a free service. Whilst I agreed, I did point out that if I we KNEW her account would be hacked into, thwen we wouldn't use the service. Why would anyone use something, especially an email service where you store personal and financial details such as shopping receipts, if they knew it was this vulnerable?!?

    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 thta ou can talk to in order to try and sort your account out. I have emailed them 3 times about this and had no response, and when I've had problems with my account, again, no response.

    I like my Gmail account. I'm lucky, mine works. But if it crashes then I'll never use it again. I'll switch permanently to my .mac acount.
  • As an extra comment to clarify things to Mr Collins, the emails are backed up. The main issue is that if someone can obtain her account by hacking into it, then this is to all extents and purposes identity theft as well. Someone could use her account details regardless of whether they were on a computers local hard drive or not.
  • since morning i can not access my gmail account(10 hours). I hope I still have an account.
  • I think Google is being somewhat evasive in their response to ZDNet. Clearly, there have been frequent problems lately (yes, I've experienced them as well). For them to suggest otherwise is a bit disingenuous.

    I would encourage your organization to press a little harder to get them to answer some basics ...

    1. Has Google been having more problems than usual lately?
    2. Has Google determined root cause for any issues lately?
    3. Does Google feel that their "beta" badge suggests that people should not rely on Google for mission critical data? (if so, do they tell people that?)
    4. Does Google feel that in offering a 'free' service, their openness to discuss service levels is somehow diminished?

    Let's remember that Google is doing some pretty heavy advertising of their services as the wave of the future. If their credibility is suffering in this case, then I'd wonder about that future just a bit.
  • And personally I leave all my windows open and never lock my doors when I go out. I'm not likely to be burgled so I will trust that it wont happen. Anyone using ANY online service that is A) Free, B) Huge and C) Still Beta software, to store important data is doing exactly the same thing. My advice is pack your PC up and send it back where you got it from - you are far too stupid to have one in the first place. Then get yourself one of MIT's $100 US wind up laptops when they come out next year, they dont have a hard disk and are designed for the PC illiterate. The moaners on this issue make me angry - can you tell? They will be the same ones with the really REALLY important data that IS on their hard disk backed up safely in another folder / directory on the same hard disk.
  • This sort of thing will have an impact on Google's acceptance as a corporate email provider.
  • my email account has not worked either hey GOOGLE its not looking to GOODLE for You also The fine News about you giving up url info to Government has US scared ... What about our Privacy policy ?
  • I'm 100% webmail now, because I've lost at least three hard drives to crashes over the past 10 years or so. I don't have confidential, mission-critical information in my mailboxes -- what I do have there are messages from friends and family, or messages from mailing lists that don't have long-term archives. Those are the sort of messages I'd like to keep but can't be always bothered to save on my local storage. If I lose those messages, I'd be mighty upset but life would go on.

    As to confidential, mission-critical email -- well d'uh, there's no such thing as confidential email unless you use encryption, which I have yet to see in a Webmail service.

    As to "crucial", especially business-related files -- I do have some of those on my Webmail accounts but they're mainly for archival purposes. I'm a writer and consultant and I save my stuff, including work-in-progress, somewhere in my Webmail. But I also back up my work-in-progress on either CD or USB thumbdrive. Perhaps those who do rely on their Webmail for storing biz-related files can explain what kind of files they keep online, because I can't relate to the concept.

    In summary, I rely 100% on Webmail -- no local POP/IMAP client for me -- in effect, I'm entrusting my data to professionals whose job it is to keep mail running and my files reasonably safe. My job is to write articles or reports, presentations, and documentation for my clients, the Webmail provider's job is to manage my mail services and my data. Whether it's a paid service or not is irrelevant, because ultimately, someone pays. Paying would give me the right to certain expectations and the corresponding redress for my provider's failure to meet those expectations. Subscribing to a no-fee service means that someone else -- e.g., advertisers -- foots the bill, and they wouldn't be happy to learn of poor service, would they?
  • I'm in the middle of buying a house. My home inspection is tomorrow so I need to know if my lawyer, agent or broker have sent me important information... I tried to login to gmail 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 e-mails to Gmail support from another account. I was hopeful that my account would be back by tomorrow but from what I'm reading it looks like it could be weeks. Looks like I'll have to call everyone to let them know my Gmail account is unreliable and I will have to resort to contact me only by my cell and faxes.
  • Haven't been able to access Googlemail for 2 days. Never again
  • Storing consumer info is dangerous. Our payment company, UseMyBank allows consumers to make payments online with zero bank information stored or released to the online Seller.

    Our payment method leverages the client's online bank relationship to make "instant online debit payments" to online Sellers with UseMyBank as a payment option with zero fraud and zero chargebacks. We process 10's of millions and are in our fourth year.

    The choice in the way consumers pay online has important ramifications. Our company, allows consumers to pay for online purchases directly from their online bank with no bank account information going to the merchant, just a payment confirmation.

    Online banking is the fastest growing activity on the internet today and we are the fastest growing company in the online payment industry by leveraging online banking to perform "instant online debit payments". pioneered the way for consumers to make real time payments from their online bank, with no bank or account info passed to the online merchant. Consumers with online banking can now make "Instant Online Debit Payments" to Sellers with UseMyBank. At the Seller's checkout, a Buyer selects their financial institution and makes an instant debit payment from their online bank.

    Over 12 million online consumers from Canada have been able to make "instant online debit payments" to Sellers with UseMyBank since 2002. This is great news for the 30-40% of consumers without credit cards and those who do not feel comfortable giving online merchants their financial information. UseMyBank is well proven with many of the largest and most sophisticated online banks and internet merchants in the world, processing 10's of millions.

    This year most major banks worldwide will be in our network. Sellers want that massive buying power and consumers love the new choices and control they have to make online purchases. Many for the first time in their lives. Almost every retailer offers debit payments in stores and the majority now pay that way. For any online seller to lose a customer because they are unable to process a transaction is costly and preventable. UseMyBank
  • Is there any way we can access our emails or should we open new email accounts?
  • My account has been deleted - similar story to those in the news article. Gained acces to my account and all my inbox e-mails had gone, but contacts were still there. Reported the fault. Logged out, tried to log back in 15 minutes later and was told my user name and password didn't match. Tried to change password and was told my user account didn't exist. I have been deleted!!!
    Google have been hopless so far - automated responses. Not happy.
  • Page cannot

    Thank you, gmail, it was a pleasure...
  • I haven't been able to acces my email the way I've been doing it! I get this RSS in blue at the end of the email address box. How did I get that? What's being done to alleviate this problem? Unless something is done I will have to resort to Yahoo........
  • I have been unable to access my Gmail account at all for well over a week. I have also been unable to get to my e-mail via Mail2web. I was first introduced to Gmail while working as a Medical Volunteer in Indonesia after the Tsunami. Many of the NGO Volunteers started using Gmail out at the PACTEC Tent at the UN Compound in Meulaboh, Aceh Province. Because we were functioning in a major disaster area, that was also a conflict zone at the time, the aid workers often kept critical documents in their Gmail accounts due to the large storage capacity. All of my NGO contacts are in my Gmail account and loosing them will strike a critical blow to my humanitarian goals. When overseas aid workers are often trying to operate in a very precarious environment where comunication is vital. There are numerous humanitarian workers who will be cripled by this current problem with Gmail. Please Google tell us that you are doing something to fix this. Is Gmail down and out for good? Kim: MedOcean
  • I registered forGooglemail in the UK in August and for a while I was able to access my email through Outlook Express every time. But after a few weeks I now frequently get messages such as pop.googlemail not available. Also, my past few attempts to access my email though internet explorer have met with the message that my email address has not been recognised.

    Please advise.