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Why I Quit Using Google (kylepiira.com)
378 points by thekyle 12 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 170 comments

I love that other companies have sustainable alternatives to Google services. But these articles looks more like hype train and doesn’t really add any new value for me.

You are not building something new switching from one big corp to another small company that want to become another big company next day.

Probably I’m getting old but I remember times when Google doesn’t exists. We had software for files, messages, calls, calendars etc. It was based on different protocols, may be less secure and more naive. But it was ok for these days.

There is life outside of Google, and always was. May be for “millenials” you need to be brave to leave this circle, but I don't getting it. What is so special in using other providers? Is it just... normal?

The point of this article is to switch from one Google for a lot of services to a disparate group of providers for same services... if one of the service providers goes away, or is no longer palatable, only the service they provide needs to be relocated.

Google can suspend your account and the 20-30 things you depend on them can go away (or, at least, be unavailable in a customized fashion based on your own data). That's less of a risk if you use different providers for different services.

To make matters worse, Google isn't known for their good customer service.

This is often repeated, and I believe it... but on the other hand, I've been using google services pretty heavily for over a decade, including some paid services, and I've never wanted customer service from google over all that time. Precisely the thing I like about google services is that their shit works and I don't need help from them to use it.

I suppose there's a risk of account suspension as mentioned above, but I still feel that risk is very low for me, my perception of these incidents that make noise on social media/HN is there is at least semi-shady shenanigans involved that trip spam/fraud/etc. alarms. I don't push those kinds of buttons, and neither do the vast majority of people, so I think this is a non-factor for most.

> this is a non-factor for most.

That's precisely why they are getting away with it. But once you get targeted by them, there is no way out.

If you hire one bad person with a banned account, it can happen that all Google accounts of the entire company are being banned, including your company's apps on Google Play, etc.

On Youtube, even famous people like cgp grey got into issues with Google which claimed that cgp grey was impersonating himself.

The core issue is that you can't have online spaces be free of rule enforcement, but the same time, in most if not all places, rules are enforced quite unfarily and without due process. For individuals this can mean social isolation, but for companies it can mean the end. There were some stories about this here on hn.

You are right. The risk of an account termination is very low. On the other hand the penalty for failure is absurdly high.

So ultimately it all depends on your willingness to accept the odds, and understand that it can, and does, happen - balancing that with the possible need to start over on the Internet one day.

> their shit works

Until it doesn't. And then you're screwed. Yes, this didn't happen to you yet. It's like insurance - most people end up not using it. But if you need it and don't have it you're quite screwed. FOr some levels of dependency on Google it's ok - if I can't use Google Maps, I use other maps, no problem. But if I depend on Google for something critical, it may be dangerous.

Most people also don’t ever need customer service from PayPal, or any company really. The point is that when you do, you’re screwed. That’s not a worthwhile risk for important services like email. For other things perhaps it is.

And everybody thinks it won’t happen to them. Every time there is a PayPal horror story there are comments from people whose business relies on them saying that they don’t believe the risk is high and that it won’t happen to them.

I paid the NoScript guy $5 once with PayPal, many years ago. For some reason, that transaction caused my PP account to be frozen. I called PP and they told me "we can't tell you why your account was locked, because that would give people information to help avoid our fraud detection".

I had used this account to buy thousands of dollars worth of stuff on eBay, and they froze it for a $5 transaction.

The risk is real.

I needed PayPal customer service once cause I got scammed for thousands of dollars.

Customer support was excellent, professional and quick. I got all my money back in 3-4 days.

> I got all my money back in 3-4 days.

Sounds like this was as a customer. PayPal are known to have good service for customers; most of the horror stories are as sellers (where getting bad customer service, having your funds frozen or account closed is also a LOT more painful than as a customer since it could sink your business).

Yes, it was as a customer. When I sell stuff online, its either cash, bank transfer, or Paypal "as friends", never Paypal "ware or service", because it's super easy for sellers to get scammed by customers.

I think that's a good thing. If you are selling stuff online using PayPal, you should be at least be big enough to afford a lawyer that helps you with PayPal.

As a customer, however, you are often way less protected.

That's an understatement. Google's customer service is legendary in the sense that everyone's heard of it but nobody has actually been able to "see" it.

But having bad customer service is just bad service, confiscating users' data really not unlike theft.

Google's customer service is definitely quirky. You have to write up your issue somewhere and then submit it to this strange orange 1990s-looking website. Then they prioritize tickets with input from random strangers on the internet before they can be seen by someone with enough authority to help you. But generally if you can get into the top 30 issues or so, someone will help you.

What "strange orange website" are you talking about? I thought Google customer service was a myth — would love to know where I can go if I have an issue in the future.

He's talking about HN.

Ah, thought it was some reference to the old Blogger design. facepalm

Imagine if your landlord decided to not only evict you but immediately confiscate any possessions you have in their property.

The feudalism analogy applies here too, im the old times the lord in the castle (or somebody working for him) can banish you from his area, taking your possessions and severing your contacts with the community, ruining your business, and so on. And they don't even need a valid reason, and when you ask "Why?!?" the soldiers would dragging you would just ignore you..

This just puts the focus on another problem then: Tiny companies get eaten by big players [0] until you don't have any choice or it is too much of an effort to you to switch to an alternative solution.

In my opinion it would be helpful to acquire knowledge how to provide services on your own or to connect with people to share services (like a NextCloud).

On the market you will not find a provider that can guarantee to be it's own master or exist at all in years to come. Also I have the bad feeling that a lot of providers try to prohibit data export to keep you caught in their eco-systems (e.g. see Apple deactivating the _basic_ function to export contacts to a SIM card).

So now it is early enough to find a way to own and protect your data but in a few years it may be much worse and some day probably impossible or at least impractical.

The upside to this is that no single service will just "go away" and as long as your NC-server is running you will have access to your services.

[0] e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mergers_and_acquisitio...

>May be for “millenials” you need to be brave to leave this circle, but I don't getting it.

I don't think anyone is considering themselves brave for decoupling themselves from the Google-sphere. Leaving social media is a far greater step with ramifications, real, imaginary or simply comparatively, that I would commend younger people for being brave should they take the step. It's something that's truly going against the grain.

I think the dearth of these type blog posts is to a) recognize that it's easy to encapsulate much of your digital reliance on Google and its services and therefore b) Real, or imaginary, it's quite difficult to take the step of decoupling from it and finally c) show that it is possible and less burdensome than people currently encapsulated believe it will be.

The authors slant on this is a little different from some others that we've seen on here - Google can shut down your entire online ecosystem with the click of a button should you infringe some arbitrary standards set in T&Cs riddled with legalese, designed for people to not read. A close call opened his eyes, and he made the steps to decouple from Google. I don't think he's looking for some to cry "Oh my, you are so brave!" for doing so.

> You are not building something new switching from one big corp to another small company that want to become another big company next day.

This. At some point you have to trust someone.

Even if you're off Google you're leaking data with your phone, credit card, smart TV, ISP, genetic testing, etc.

I know privacy isn't all or nothing but with Email the party I'm communicating with already has a copy of the communication that they could forward to anyone or save with any other provider.

I'd say ethics might be a larger reason to switch.

Yeah but if we use services from multiple companies we discourage monopoly and encourage competition.

It is considered normal to share trivialities online.

You may cynically consider it "building an online presence", but more generously people like to share things... even obvious things... like this comment I'm writing.

> You are not building something new switching from one big corp to another small company that want to become another big company next day.

So what? The point is to have different services upon different companies, even if tomorrow DuckDuckGo becomes a giant (unlikely anyways) the idea is to use it only for search not for everything.

> May be for “millenials” you need to be brave to leave this circle, but I don't getting it.

The article clearly states is for pragmatical reasons, where do you came out with him needing to be "brave" to do it?

>What is so special in using other providers? Is it just... normal?

As special as not helping yet another monopoly that has vast control over most people's lives, yeah maybe thats not so special to you and thats fine but it still a reasonable cause to advocate for.

You ask why to things the article already started talking about. What do you think about what the article has already said about these things?

Also note most of the things they have moved to are self hosted. For instance Cloudron could close tomorrow and they would still own their email address. Seems quite different than moving from a big company to a small company that wants to be a big company.

Five of his switches were to nextcloud, which is self hosted and open source. One was to self hosted email. Many of the others were things like web search, browser, etc, where it’s hard to avoid a company.

> You are not building something new switching from one big corp to another small company that want to become another big company next day.

Switch to another small one when they start to get big. Try to keep them all balanced. If only one person doing that was enough to get a nice competitive market...

> What is so special in using other providers? Is it just... normal?

It's probably not normal. I've heard of Google, but not Fastmail, Matomo, Nextcloud, Collabra, Plex, Jellyfin, F-Droid, Aurora, Lineage, PinePhone, Simple Mobile Tools, Hover, Matrix, PocketCasts, AntennaPod, or "Ting".

>What is so special in using other providers

Exactly what you imply with your nostalgia for PIMs: increased fragmentation. There is value in witholding information/data/usage from Google (or FB, or Amazon, or Palantir, etc.) -- particularly personal data that is most valuable in aggregate -- value that reflects a decreased ability to cause problems, worries, and/or concerns in users' lives.

> There is life outside of Google, and always was.

I had a collection of animations related to lambda calculus and alife on g+. Well, now is back online and moreover it is better, because I can add the option to remake these animations live, with js.


> May be for “millenials” you need to be brave to leave this circle

According to the Wikipedia definition of millennial, a large chunk of millennials also likely remember a time before Google.

The same goes for Facebook. My company uses a legimate Business Account to handle ads of our clients. Nothing shady there. Regular SMB ads. More or less a month ago i receive an email the whole account has been blocked due to some violations. Whole freaking account. Without any warnings. We had clear history. And this means essencially you can close your company if you run only FB ads because you can not create another ads account.

Eventually they recovered the account in 48 hours and wrote they are sorry.

But the thing is it does not solve the problem. You can loose your business just by a system mistake in a second.

And it seems like there is always a way out. But there is not always. Really, does a company of a size of a Facebook or Google care about one person or one small business?

I had a Instagram account for 10 years with my photos and fought 6 months to get it back after hacker takeover. Believe me i have tried everything to get it back. And no, there was no way. There is no number you can call to fix it.

Its just so dangerous to have such single points of failure nowadays like Facebook or Google. Both for business and personal use. Its just great to hear a person who was able to remove it.

Yes you are so right. Your topic and text (single point of failure) reads for me like a beginning of a whole article. Nowadays there are also new Fintech banks who operate like Google and have only chat and no telephone support. Imagine getting locked out of your bank account (because of a false positive in an Anti Money Laundering AI) and you can reach nobody in time.

Exactly. Part of this problem is visible right now with PayPal, one of greatest FinTech projects. AML lockdowns but also disputes. Lately i have read people sell for twice the price just because one of two transations aproximately is a fraud.

Has anyone else had experience with getting their Google account suspended? I literally use it for everything in my life, and without it I would probably lose access to a lot. I would change away from Google in a heartbeat but it just seems like too much effort if I can avoid getting my account suspended in the first place.

If anyone has gotten their account suspended, what was it for and how can I avoid it?

Several times, several different accounts.

Fortunately Google is (or more accurately, was) simply a convenience for me.

I have not yet fully deactivated the several Gmail accounts I have still standing, though those are largely inactive, and most are strictly associated with specific nyms I'd created (one notably after a primary nym account was suspended).

The best way to avoid having your Google account be suspended is to not have one.

But moving to self-hosting, or increasingly, entirely offline, has been a goal and project of the past few years.

I touch a few Google services directly:

- Google Scholar: still amongst the best academic search engines I'm aware of.

- Google Ngram Viewer and Google Trends: quite useful for tracking concepts over time.

- Google Maps: There are times OpenStreetMap's search simply falls down even when specifying lat/lon coordinates directly, Because Reasons. Google Maps is my fallback, but I still rely on it far more than I'd care to.

- Gmail: Secondary for several accounts.

- YouTube: still the largest online video hosting service, though alternative interfaces (https://invidio.us/) and alternate hosts (both centralised and federated or self-hosted) are increasingly viable. YouTube's UI tweaks and aggressive pre-roll ads over the past several months have been aggressively user-unfriendly.

- Google Web Search. A very distant second to DuckDuckGo, but still necessary for 1) date-bounded search, 2) getting overall counts of results (occasionally useful), and 3) rare edge-cases where DDG doesn't turn up expected/desired results (GWS is ~50% successful here).

I don't know if it's because I rely so heavily on DDG that I'm influencing its results, but I find that both searches and content that I've posted tends to turn up high-ranked on it. I'm not as aware of this with Google.

I like to self-host too, and there is a huge amount of awesome selfhosted [0] software to be had.

Only problem is, you have to be willing to become a moderately good sysadmin and spend your time doing the chores to keep your systems up-to-date. This takes considerable amount of time. Dropping the ball once, and you may find yourself hacked (I had this recently when being slow in updating a nginx reverse proxy).

[0] https://github.com/awesome-selfhosted/awesome-selfhosted

Self-hosting applies more to data. If I've got the bits, I can deploy them (or channel them) elsewhere. If I don't, I'm SOL.

Self-hosted services -- Web, Mail, messaging, etc., -- remains more complicated. I really wish it weren't, I've been watching projects for a decade and more now to make it less so. I'm thinking that this won't happen.

Simply based on skills distribution, some sort of federation or clustering at the level of 1 admin per 100 - 100k users is probably necessary. That's a scope at which regional or interest-based community hosting becomes viable. At the same time, it means thousands to millions of individual service providers, a scope at which at least some mechansisms of mass surveillance (state, capitalist, non-state actor, criminal) become less viable.

Concentration is its own risk.

Can you reply as to the reason you had so many accounts flagged and disabled?

Along with the risk of account suspension, there is always a risk (although of a lesser degree) of Google killing a product that we rely on a daily basis. As much crazy as it sounds but what's the guarantee that one day Google won't kill Gmail, especially when considering the history Google has killing much-loved products like Google Reader?

You can get suspended if you make an inappropriate comment on YouTube 8 years ago and it only gets flagged today. Also if someone from your IP does something that flags their account, you can get affected too. The main point is that Google never tells you exactly why you're being suspended because they don't want people figuring out the reasons and working around them.

I had an account suspended that was linked to a YouTube account videoing marijuana cannabis dispensaries. April 2018 the site shut down non-Vice media cannabis content and suspended the Gmail account. It made it apparent how central my most sensitive email archive was housed on such a flimsy foundation.

No, but I'm definitely paranoid about it. The difference is if any other service I rely on this heavily had a major issue, I could hop on the phone and get it fixed in a day.

Google doesn't do customer support, which is fine for maps or search where I can just hop and nothing matters, but I'm starting to think it's too big of a risk for my primary email/calendar/contacts.

Switching away from gmail was something I put off for years for the same reason as you but was ultimately painless and easy. Start off by forwarding your gmail to your new address and moving incrementally. Start by only replying from your new email and only giving out your new email. Then start switching automated emails (newsletters, mailing lists etc) over as you receive a forwarded email.

I still have a google account but I don’t use it. Haven’t logged into google docs and such in years and while I still get the occasional gmail mail forwarded it’s typically spam (usually people who got my gmail address mistaken for mine).

I was suspended from using Google search last year for 48 hours. All because my query used the advanced search features that Google themselves document - like, I was just reading the Google docs, tried one query and boom "you have been blocked from Google search".

I was 1 full day without Google search. I could not search for anything anywhere, not my phone, my laptop, nothing. That night I switched to DuckDuckGo.

Two days later, I was unblocked from Google search and use it again.

That was the moment where I started migrating all my services from google into independent providers. What if, instead of blocking my use of Google search, they block my GMail ? Calendar ? Google Home ? Android phone?....

I end up out of my house, without the ability to go in, without the ability to search for how to fix it, or to call somebody or message somebody with my home for help, maybe logged out of my car, etc. etc. etc.

For me, avoiding such risks is more valuable than having a better search experience.

The ones I know of are:

- saying you're under 13 on YouTube (probably elsewhere as well)

- TOS violations that malware performed using your account (eg. using your google session to share malware using drive)

- Using drive to share or store copyrighted content

- spam, eg via gmail

The one that caught a few was the not using real name on google+ ban.

Storing copyrighted material on drive? Seriously?

> If anyone has gotten their account suspended, what was it for and how can I avoid it?

For logging in from the wrong location (or network?). Most of the times you just get an email about log in attempts. This was for logging in from JP while usually logging in from DE/EU.

How can you avoid it? Using a private VPN I suppose when using Google (avoid cloud IP address blocks though, else you'll get captcha hell).

I've never had any of my Google accounts (none of which I use much any longer) suspended, but I'm guessing that if you add a phone number to your account and verify it, then the automatic algorithms that look for suspicious activity (or inactivity) may be a little more forgiving. If Google is truly critical for you, I'd suggest buying GSuite and becoming a paid customer.

Most times people get suspended for doing things that unsurprisingly go against the ToS. If you’re not developing software with googles API or anything a normal, everyday user doesn’t do you are probably fine.

Of course it can still happen by random chance thanks to their algorithm going screwy but it’s not likely and if you’re still concerned Id consider at least starting the process.

Or you just spam emojis in a YouTube chat because the host requested it.

I have an IoT device that pings the YouTube API every few days using my personal Google account API key, should I be concerned?

A snarky answer is "yes."

A less snarky answer is "is the IoT device made by Google or has a Google license?" If yes, then "probably no," otherwise "yes."

I have a theory as to why Google is so tight lipped about how their service works (and what actions will get you kicked off)---it's that Google employees have no idea. Google is so invested in AI and machine learning, that I suspect that their automated systems are as inscrutable to them as they are to us, but admitting such wouldn't look that great.

>Has anyone else had experience with getting their Google account suspended?

No but this is why I opted for own domain + paid g-suite. Just so that I can take my toys elsewhere if needed

Are you immune to the TOS if you're paying for G Suite?

"so I can take my toys elsewhere"

You are immune in the sense that G can only kill the services and hosting, and your access to G's copy of any content.

But the domain is still yours and your email is not @gmail even if it's hosted on gmail servers. So when G kills your account, it's only the hosting. You can switch your domain to any other hosting povider including self hosting, and all your old urls and email addresses resume working.

It would still be up to you to maintain your own off-G backups of any content. Saved emails, website, gdrive, docs, photos. When the account dies you may lose access to G's copy of everything, so ensure all they ever have is a copy.

Also probably don't use G for domain registrar. Even using them for dns host is ok, just not actual registrar.

Might make for a crappy day if you have to do all that switching, but you can, and that is enough to provide the safety net against the small chance that you will ever need to.

But if your email is actually @gmail, and that is say the "prove you own this account at life-savings-robo-advisor" email, then you are truly boned, and small risk is infinitely too-large risk.

Exactly that. Thanks for writing that up.

...one big gotcha is gdrive, docs and GCP. Haven't worked out what to do about those yet, but priority is being able to salvage the email addr since everything is linked to it

Good question, but I don’t think anyone knows since Google likely suspends the account without giving a reason.

Since there is no recourse, it’s also hard to get clarification.

What's reasonable is if you want to avoid using Google services (for whatever reason), then you do not need to be fanatical about it. Move off gradually, one service at a time, and keep using some Google services, if you really must - why not?

This is what I've done over the past few years and it was much easier than I thought. Although, I was never too deep into Google's ecosystem to begin with. The only thing that really remains for me now is the occasional YouTube video (I don't even use an account for that anymore), and Chrome extensions.

For most people, I'd imagine "degoogling" seems pretty daunting at first, but if you do it gradually, you'll have rid yourself of Google before you know it. You'll also be supporting a better future for everyone. I don't mean that in an anti-Google way. I mean it in a pro-indie-dev (or small company) way and a pro-decentralized way, the way the internet is supposed to be.

Competition is always a good thing, in the context of goods and services, at least.

I think it's much better in the long term if we support businesses that specialize in doing one thing and doing it extremely well.

It may even be reasonable to think of businesses (companies) like you would well-architected software, where businesses that do one thing well are like small modules designed for a specific purpose, simple and predictable, easy to replace with something better if needed, without affecting much else in your life... while Google is like a monstrous spaghetti codebase with too many entangled dependencies, where changing a single thing has the potential to adversely affect many other things in your life.

Because that doesn't feed into the outrage machine and drive clicks.

The fact that a company is allowed to amass so much of your digital life but then lock you out with no recourse should cause outrage. It's no different than if your landlord, your bank, or the post office decided one day to lock you out and not even bother to give you an explanation, let alone to give you back your money and property.

We live in a world where services like the ones Google provides aren't just optional, they're critical for so many people. Some have less money in the bank or home than the value of their emails, contacts, media, and whatever else may be stored in Google's systems. Some of those things are priceless.

I agree that it's Google's right to refuse to have/keep you as a user/customer but they should be legally forced to give you back all of your data or at the very least give a generous notice period.

Not sure why this is getting downvoted. Having your data confiscated like this is definitely outrageous and should be illegal. Right now we rely on this being bad PR for the company doing it but that's not enough especially for the giants. The user pays for the service by allowing the provider to monetize their data not by forfeiting the right to even get a copy.

I'm actually hoping that some regulation will be put in place to protect users and ensure that they never lose their data.

It's because most people in my country (US) are brainwashed, supporting and voting for things against their own self-interests like groveling at the feet of entities like Google. They think the end user, like employees, should have no rights, and are lucky to have what they're given. There's no fight, because it requires less fortitude to craft a story in your mind that the dominant force and apparent way forward (corporate domination) is somehow good, to avoid having to do any real work in fighting the system. It's laziness, intellectual and physical that pervades our society. Yet many of the same people will call the French, "lazy". It's the other way around.

Prudent regulation is necessary, but a strong lobbyist group for programmers such as a union or professional association would hurry that along much faster. Developers are end users too, and would be the most likely source of such a push in today's system. Unfortunately unlike lawyers, dentists and doctors, programmers think they're too smart to get organized.

This is a dude's personal blog, why are you reading bad faith in to it like that?

Who can afford for their main email account (gsuite, paid), cloud hosting (if you use it, maybe even for business), means of payment (gpay), backup and storage (drive) to get banned/locked without meaningful support just because you happen to post a comment on a yt video that some googler or algorithm found offensive/non-pc or you happened to log into your account from the wrong IP address, city or continent?

As soon as I started travelling frequently, gmail/google was not longer an option. You can't rely on it. Can't trust it.

That, on top of everything else is a dealbreaker.

The logic applies to basically ALL cloud based services.

We had our entire company profile for Indeed disabled because a couple of our ads were commission-based positions - which only became an issue when paused those postings (because they don't care while you're giving them money).

Their appeals process was non-existent, and they turned off everything - the whole account - so I couldn't even post for an accountant.

Literally all cloud based companies have this danger.

I remembered seeing this post on Mastodon, and it turns out this website federates. My response from Mastodon is listed as a comment on this website.

The wonders of ActivityPub...

I tried getting into Mastadon a while back but didn't manage to find decent instances to subscribe to. There's just so many! Any advice on where to get started?

Hey, I am working on a mastodon aggregator, which can help with exploring instances and figuring out which one to join. It should be launching soon!


I hope you get consent from people and instances before aggregating any data like posts and profiles. This kind of thing is very unpopular on the fediverse if done the wrong way. Meaning without permission.

That's a fair point. I am definitely not trying to anger the fediverse community. I just want to make it more discoverable. I was assuming since mastodon instances have public apis, and public "explore" feeds, creating an aggregator was no different than creating a mastodon instance with a different ui. I am also being pretty respectful in terms of how frequently I ping the api. I also include contact information the user-agent that hits the api. I would respect any instances request to stop aggregating.

Also this tool is linked directly in the mastodon documentation https://mastovue.glitch.me/

There's a friendly sign up guide available now https://joinmastodon.org/

I haven't used Google for anything but search in years. It just seemed unnecessary. Mail is on Thunderbird connected to an IMAP server. Browser is Firefox. Phone is Android minus all the Google stuff, plus FDroid. Phone mail is K-9 mail. Maps are on ZNavi. Location provider is Mozilla. Software development and docs are on Github. Backups are on iDrive. Videos are uploaded to Vimeo. OS is Ubuntu LTS. Sometimes I use Discord.

A few months back, I switched my default browser to Bing, because Google was returning too many ads above the fold.

No big deal. Just fewer headaches without Google and Microsoft.

Bing and Github are Microsoft...

Bing and Google are browsers now?

Isn't a reasonable solution to pay google for gsuite? It's $50* per year or something? Then the "there's nobody to phone and no appeal and data could just be _gone_" concern goes out the window.

*edit: $6 per month so $72 per year

Not a bad idea. But there are services even today which are not working with GSuite accounts. The funny side of things is also that at least here in EU GSuite accounts have also different privacy rules.

What stops Google from suspending a paid account, assuming they issue a pro-rated refund for anything paid in advance?

24/7 support by phone or email.

Are you still a customer if you are suspended?

Main reason is don't seriously use Google or any social network anymore is because of privacy. They never respect my privacy. OK, i still use their services, but just for non-serious work.

It depends, I do not use gmail for personal/private messages just work and login to webpages, I do not use maps or location or assistance on my phone either, but this story still sounds scary because google has many products and a ban on youtube(where they forced people to use google accounts) will lock you out of everything. Part of the solution for this problem would be if you get a ban on Youtube you can still use gmail and the other products. Other part of the solution is to tell people what exactly they did wrong, I sometimes got warnings from Sony that I did something against the TOS and not to do it again but not details what I did (my son plays games on a PS4, I tried to look into the chats he made recently but I could not find anything to explain it so I tried the best I could to explain him to watch his language because he could get locked out the games) and like others said some human support would also help a lot.

For those who don't know (I didn't), you can create and download archives of any of your data on Google by visiting https://takeout.google.com/settings/takeout

Just an FYI: if your Takeout archive fails with errors, try creating multiple archives, with only one large service selected per archive.

My photos archive didn't even work that way, I had to create albums and back then up one by one. But it did eventually work.

Thanks for the advice

Wouldn't it be best for google to allow you to download a takeout of all your files in the case that your account is suspended?

They do, and the service is called, drum roll, Google Takeout.


I know, but it seems from the author's post that they were just locked out completely with no option to use google takeout to retrieve their photos etc.

The assumption is that takeout would not work anymore once you are suspended. So unless you are proactive and takeout your data every day, you will probably lose some data

But, according to gdpr, they still have your data even if you're "suspended", so they should make it available to you.

I haven't had a suspended account yet but if google really doesn't let you copy your data under any circumstance, they will have even more fun with the data protection agencies.

Google isn't really known for their respect of the GDPR.

Last time I tried Takeout, to backup an account I was about to delete, they demanded a phone number to "confirm mu identity". No, thank you.

I configured NeoMutt to grab the e-mais (the only thing I had on it) and that's it.

You're sure it works on suspended accounts?

"..best for google.."

If google gave a crap they would put a phone number to that email so you can talk to a human and resolve any issue. From numerous conversations in HN and iRL, everyone who has a spat with the G-people is royally screwed. A true hostage.

What you suggest would be great for the user. But why would google care for that? You broke their rules, you have to pay. Here, have some pain.

I don't blame them for having rules. I blaim the G-users for accepting them and giving google all this power, that is often (and stupidly) mis/ab-used.

On the other hand, I have to admit that for less technical folks, having all-in-one is a life saver. Vast majority of the member of this forum though do not belong to that group.

> If google gave a crap they would put a phone number to that email so you can talk to a human and resolve any issue

Do you know how insanely hard that would be to staff and manage such an operations for a global corporation? It had a 1 BILLION MAU back in 2015.

Somehow Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple all manage to maintain real human tech support at FAANG scale. Yet the online-first tech companies can't seem to achieve the same. I wonder why that is?

Your knowledge of Controls in conjunction with Operations needs readjustments. If you place a drastic control (e.g. a Bank with 20mil customers has 24/7 anti-fraud call center) such as a bank blocking your card, the bank makes sure that it won't cripple you and has someone that can talk to you 24/7. That costs. Banks make the decision to make this work, at a certain cost.

Apparently Google can disrupt the service, and leave you hanging.

Controls (block bank card, suspend Google account) are enforced with with a specific impact in mind and a specific mitigating factors.

I am not saying that "banks care". I am saying that banks give .... while Google doesn't.

Google One gets you 1 year of access to human support for a year so apparently not that hard. I'm sure many people would rather pay that amount just to get their ban reviewed rather than lose their existing email, chat, photos, files, and phone number. The 3 other ~1 trillion dollar tech companies all have customer support without issue.

I think once the account is banned, then you can't log into account to buy that Google One membership. You need to buy it before the ban.

I don't even know if you still use Google One support post account ban I was just pointing out Google is not only capable but they already operate a human support service at extremely low cost.

This is Google, Facebook et. all’s argument for not doing any content moderation, customer support, etc: “it’s hard”

I have a Google One subscription so I pay Google for storage. Google could suspend my account and I'd have no recourse whatsoever? I'd have no way of getting my 10s of thousands of photos back?

I hope you have backups, at the very least.

Yes, most subscriptions generally say in the ToS that the account and all assets may be closed/deleted at the sole discretion of the provider. It's anecdotally rare, but depending on the company (quality of customer service), it may be irreversible, or take a long time to fix.

My personal rule is to never trust a third-party to "protect" my data; there is no such thing in today's market and legal frameworks (unless you have a face-to-face relationship, and even then, backups!)

Thanks. What's the cheapest or most cost-effective way to backup all my photos? S3?

S3 is never the cheapest/most cost-effective way to backup anything.

A NAS that backs up to amazon glacier. Or glacier directly if you have something that'll stay on / awake long enough with your data to do it.

Buy an external hard drive or SSD, download the photos to it, put it in a safe place away from your other computer stuff.

Do not rely on a single drive or you'll end up in a situation like me where one day your external drive decides to stop working and 20gb of photos are gone.

What happened to your local copy? ;)

I think you know, hence the wink, but usually what happens here is the local copy is lost and the backup has been bad for ages, but never was identified. The lesson learned is to test your backups, which is kind of a pain.

While I do keep a single drive backup, to restore my entire drive from, but I do not test this backup. If it doesn't work, it's not that big of a deal. I cherry pick what I really find important and burn it to M-DISCs. Very little content is actually that important, baby photos and things like this.

That's viable for sure, but one thing I'd like is regular backups of the photos from my phone (where most I take most of my photos). That's the nice thing about Google Photos with Google One - all my stuff is backed up to the cloud regularly. I understand, though, that this comes with some risk.

I use Resilio Sync, and have tried SyncThing. Both work.

They both have an app you run in your phone, and a companion app you run on macOS, Windows, Linux, or your NAS, and it syncs (even through a NAT) whatever you've configured to backup on your phone to N servers.

If you're away from home, you can run it on your laptop next to you, so your phone is backed up quickly, and then throughout the day you laptop can sync with your home server while you're out exploring. It's nice.

I have two backups online, and an external drive I rsync to monthly then turn off.

Before you delete your originals in Google Photo, use Takeout to validate the files. Mine (at "original quality") were mangled.

What made you move away from Syncthing? I plan to sync my relevant Android dirs (downloads, Markor, photos, etc.) to my laptop and archive.

In my setup it was slower and more resource intensive. SyncThing is open source, though.

A few remarks from personal experience:

- I recommend Syncthing (easy) or Seafile (more features).

Both are free for personal use but the latter is a product (paid plans, support), Syncthing is more of a 'project' (both work great).

You can self-host the recipient machine at home or on some cloud (depends on your internet connection, needs, skills, and budget, I guess).

[IMHO it's a must-have skill in our historical era to be able to manage data at a basic level, just like managing one's finances, or health status; so I recommend learning 'enough' about it.]

- "Data that only exists once (1 original copy) does not exist." — the idea of a single point of failure without possible recovery.

Have at least 3 copies: 1 original (e.g. phone, laptop); 1 'repository' (file server) which aggregates all sources and becomes your central source of authority; 1 backup. (this ensure that you never go below 2 copies, if any 1 fails). I use Google Photos too in addition to Syncthing — sort of a failsafe for uploading.

- For long-term storage (photos usually qualify), consider bit rot — the fact that storage devices simply fail partially randomly, i.e. you lose literal bits here and there from time to time, unless precautions are taken (e.g. self-healing ZFS array).

This makes cloud services usually attractive, they take care of all the low-level behind-the-scenes shenanigans. Conversely, long-term physical backups (HDD) should periodically be either fully checked or rewritten — but they're far cheaper, now below $25/TB, so it's easy to just have two backups, one 'hot' (disk online) and 1 'cold' (disk in a dry closet). I would recommend a filesystem with checksums.

If you need more advice or guidance, feel free to ask questions.

[1]: https://syncthing.net/

[2]: https://www.seafile.com/en/home/

Thanks so much for this.

That's why I use Google Photos/Drive as source of truth and keep regular, offline backups based on that.

Correct. Though I suspect the threshold for wrong-doing on paid accounts is probably a bit higher.

There is probably some form of recourse available, but knowing google you'll be talking to bots.

I've had a problem with trying to sign into my approved AdSense account the past few weeks. "We encountered an error. An engineer is looking into the issue." No way to contact them. I'm done with Google as well. I'm never going to use a service that doesn't provide a way to contact support.

I'm somewhat surprised Google hasn't taken the old Microsoft route of just charging per call for support on their free accounts. MS used to be $300 way back IIRC. Google could probably charge $500.

While I read other opinions about this article not bringing anything new that we already know, as an Enterprise user this reminds me that the people running Google Cloud is the same that comes from this consumer world or new grads with 0 Enterprise experience, which believe their product is perfect and user is wrong. We just completed an evaluation of AWS, Azure and GCP and our leadership raised this concern...which came true when opening GCP account and support was not as responsive as AWS, or Azure. AWS and Azure I even had real people calling us and contact us to understand our use case...I know GCP is bring more people from Oracle and other companies which can help them change this, in the mean time, we still will.invest in AWS, Azure and IBM

I'm not necessarily anti-Google, but only use their services when I consider them best of breed. That's my policy across the board. Gmail in 2004 was as good as it got, then everyone caught up, just lately in 2019 did I find Gmail to have gone beyond the pack again.

The ability to schedule emails in Gmail is something I've missed from Outlook (desktop) for a long time, and it does it serverside unlike the desktop Outlook app.

The downside to Gmail is that the default user experience is pretty poor. You have to enable the preview pane yourself, and if you don't, you also would have to enable the auto opening of the next email after you delete one otherwise it takes you back to the list. Gmail's list of emails has the star on the far left, and all other quick controls on the right. It's pretty absurd.

But if you disable categories and the rest of Google's convoluted ideas, enable the preview pane and set it to the compact layout, I haven't seen a better free webmail today.

I would switch to Outlook.com just to split my email account from Youtube and Google Maps, if Microsoft supported scheduled sends. iCloud.com would be my first choice but they don't have a robust calendar system like Outlook and Gmail (iOS reminders only, no email reminders). Same concern with ProtonMail (I never saw the appeal to FastMail). Hosting my own is a non-starter because I feel with all the competition in webmail that I really shouldn't have to, there are good free services.

  I was deeply embedded in the Google ecosystem ...
  I would upload all of my family photos to Google Photos and all of my personal documents to Google Drive ...
  I used Google Hangouts ...
  My home is covered with Google Homes ...
  I have easily invested thousands of dollars into my Google   ...
Honest question: why should one take advice from someone showing such a systematic pattern of poor judgement?

Tentative answer to your question, with an optimistic outlook: Good judgement comes from experience. You get experience by learning from mistakes. Mistakes come from bad judgement.

Maybe because just a few short years ago Google was the darling of the internet because search and chrome were better than anything else. People believed the do no evil spin. And back then why wouldn't they?

Many of us already saw it differently back then and often had to face ridicule when pointing out concerns with these services.

I still do face ridicule. While HN might be a bit behind one of us that was already suspicious of Google, the average developer is still loving Chrome and will look at you like you're a maniac if you breach the topic of ditching the browser.

I setup a personal NextCloud instance on a $5 Digital Ocean last year, and along with Fastmail, it replaced all the Google services I've been using. It took about an hour to get up and running, it went through version updates without a hiccup, and never gave me any trouble.

I found it to be completely hassle free, and I can highly recommend it to anybody looking to take back control of their privacy.

It's not accurate to imply this is so easy. You're now responsible for your data, security and uptime. That means patching, backups and plenty of ops work.

I agree - I've been doing this crap for 20 years, it's not "about an hour". This is an afternoon at the least.

Context: I've done it for myself and others recently.

I installed it using Snap and Let's Encrypt using this guide [1], and everything worked out of the box. Been running and upgrading it since without a single issue. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

[1] https://www.digitalocean.com/community/tutorials/how-to-inst...

Sure, easy for a technical person. That said, Digital Ocean has automated backups, and security mostly consists of making sure you do your updates in a timely fashion. I've literally had to do no other ops work in over a year running NextCloud, and I haven't had a single downtime.

Running a server for yourself and your family is a far smaller effort than administering a public site.

I get the email thing. And I've actually been moving critical accounts away from my personal Gmail for a while now.

As for the rest, the services I use, I use them because they work better than any of the other options I have tried.

I'll admit that that amounts to as substantial number of services.

I think the key here is you have tried the other options, and importantly - you clearly know how to set those other services up if need be. For many if not most people, that would be entering the wild unknown.

Fair enough.

I have never understood using a gmail.com account for anything important.

It’s always been inexpensive enough to buy a domain and have an email address associated with it.

I also don’t understand startup founders who tie personal emails into a business email account.

Keep a separate email.

For one, a personal domain is less secure than a gmail.com domain. There have been quite a few targeted hacks, like Mat Honan or any number of crypto-holders, where a personal domain was socially engineered to be transferred to a new registrar (or password reset on existing registrar) where the attacker controls the MX records, thus your email, thus your password resets.

It’s much harder to transfer gmail.com, office.com, etc

That’s something I’ve been worried about since I switched to a custom domain email address that I point to another mail service: I protect my registrar account with 2fa, but I still think that the chances of someone hacking via social engineering my DNS registrar (Gandi) or the MX provider are much higher than someone hacking my 2fa personal @gmail.com account. I might just be paranoid.

I also switched to Fastmail too. Its interface is rudimentary similar to Google few years ago. It has full suite of services like calendar, notes, storage...

What I like is its simplicity which Gmail may bloat with too many features. One notable feature of Fastmail is alias: you can create other emails alias to your main account and use that to create different rules. Super handy and convenient. If you worry about encryption, probably ProtonMail is a better choice. For me, Fastmail is good for my usage.

P/s: if you want to sign up for Fastmail, here is my referral link https://ref.fm/u12211285

If you're going to plug referral links for credit, may I suggest that you switch to significantly cheaper services that are also privacy focused? You can choose from mailbox.org, mailfence.com, runbox.com, migadu.com, mxroute.com, posteo.de (no own domain support), Tutanota, ProtonMail and many more.

"Backups are a tax you pay for the luxury of restore."

Folks, back up your shi^H^Htuff.

I'm not entirely clear on what Nextcloud is. Is it meant for teams/organizations? What does the author mean by "Google Contacts → Fastmail → Nextcloud Contacts"?

It’s somewhat of a one-stop cloud service, only (usually) selfhosted. Many prople use it mainly as Dropbox/One Drive/Google Drive replacement which works great, but depending on what apps you install (some of those might be default apps, others community provided), you get a mastodon client, caldav, carddav, calendar, notes, webmail client, video chat, office document editing, media viewer and other similar stuff. I didn’t yet manage to get it working, but there is even a plugin that supports fulltext scan search via tesseract OCR.

All of these things work just as well for teams/orgs (including LDAP/SSO) as they do for a single user

He switched to Fastmail first, then to Nextcloud?

I recently switched to Fastmail and I'm very happy. The web and mobile apps are blazing fast and simple. My favorite feature is being able to add unlimited aliases which sends/forwards to whatever address I choose. This has enabled granular control over my inbox as I have receipts@mydomain, bills@mydomain, finance@mydomain, etc. If I want to try some service, I might create an alias. If they end up spamming too much, I can simply delete the alias or apply other rules.

I use fastmail with my own domain, so it’s always service@domain.tld. I only need to create aliases if I have to write them so the from/sender is correct. And I love how fast their webmail is compared to the slowness of gmail.

I too use it with my own domain. I don't get what you mean you only create aliases if you "have to write them". Can you elaborate?

Sorry, "when I have to write an outgoing email to that service"

I was considering setting up a Nextcloud instance as a replacement for Google Drive. I did some math and realized that I’ll be paying a lot more on that route - 1TB on Lightsail+S3 vs Lightsail+SSD vs Google Drive. The last was by far the cheapest.

Are there ways to bring down this cost? I know some people argue that I could use that host for other self-hosted services to amortize cost but i don’t pay monthly recurring fees for a lot of other things (but I do for Google Drive).

A little bit more expensive, but IMHO a good compromise considering it’s hosted NextCloud is https://www.hetzner.com/storage/storage-share

I’ve been using it for a few months and my only complaint so far is that you cannot setup your own (sub)domain but get a random one assigned that’s IMHO not easy to remember.

Either actually self-host or look outside of Amazon's offerings, because they aren't known for being inexpensive compared to competition.

I run Nextcloud on my own hardware and VPN in because Nextcloud isn't something I want exposed to the wider internet. Not very long ago there was a CVE that effected some Nextcloud (and other) setups.

He's damn lucky.

Today's Google would have suspended all associated accounts.


How does one leave the large corps for things like movies and tv shows? I used google for the longest time and recently switched to apple but i’d love to self host and buy drm free media. i’m guessing people doing this are using p2p or something?

I wish OP had gotten to the bottom of why the account got suspended and told us about that.

It is completely impossible to answer this question

I doubt that. Googling "google customer service" gives me this https://www.google.com/contact/ How about starting there and telling us what happened? I don't see any mention of any attempt to figure it out.

I quit using their search due to their sudden lack of ethics in the last few years. As well as my own disgusting experience I had doing business with them (treated me like garbage when invited to demo my tech. All their competitors I met with around same time were professional/respectful; deal or no deal) and then more so other stories detailing they do the same to others. Upon seeing that I was like wow my experience wasn't fringe it's in their DNA now.

I no longer can support a company whose tagline is "Do No Evil," yet that's exactly what they do!

> treated me like garbage when invited to demo my tech

Do tell this story.

See the first comment in which I detail my experience with Google ATAP which mirrors the OP's story. She demoed her invention in an interview with them & they patented it without her knowledge/consent.


Some other examples of Google (Google X even) stealing from the little guy/girl inventors & researchers...




I've spoken with some of these people and hear there are many more examples yet those people put it behind them or don't want to come out against the biggest tech company. That's too bad as for too long in history those in power and position have stolen from the rightful creators.

Google Fi lets me text and call people from my computer if i lose my phone (through Hangouts). Not sure there's a replacement for that.

There's also no drop-in replacement for the G-docs suit, nor for google-play of course. Firebase has no alternative.

Google got some pretty useful things up there.

There are some options like pushbullet that come close; but I think that relies on our phone being on and having a connection.

I’m glad I never started with Google products in the first place. Except for search and maps, but they aren’t tied to an account.

Open software does not mean non-proprietary. Free software is what your looking for.

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