A Google Sized Problem

20120805-203034.jpgAs of June 2012 Gmail has 425 million active users. That’s seven times the population of the UK and one and a half times the population of the US, so it’s a pretty sizeable number of people. I am an active user, the rest of my household are users, as is my mother-in-law. This gives a good idea of the cross section of people using Gmail: young, old, male, female, tech-savvy and not so.

About a month ago my mother-in-law’s Gmail account was hacked but not only was the password changed but also all the reset data. This is an important point and if you ever have to retrieve your account through the complex Google account recovery process – you’ll need this information. More than that you need information such as the date that you opened your Gmail account. Do you know the exact date that you opened your account? I certainly don’t. It is very easy to find yourself in a very frustrating loop and this frustration is made worse by the rising panic of having lost your account.

If I bought a product from, say, Asda or Walmart, and I had an issue with it I could go back to the store and discuss it with someone, a real human. In the past I have had problems with things that I have bought from Amazon and I have been able to find a number and call up and discuss the issue. I challenge anyone to find a number to call Google to discuss account issues. I also challenge anyone to find a way of emailing Google and getting a response not from some automated bot. And this, I think, is the greatest failing of Google – it has lost its human touch and with a user population of 425 million it really needs it.

My advice is to take steps to secure your account today. Get rid of that easy to remember password, use something with letters, numbers and symbols, and use a password manager such as Lastpass to manage it for you. Don’t reuse a password and I would highly recommend turning on 2-factor authentication on your Google account which will greatly increase the security. Because lets face it  if you get stuck Google aren’t going to be on the end of the phone to help you.