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Google Mail hit with account deletion controversy

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
Written by Ingrid Marson, Contributor

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.

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