You're wondering by now why all the broken image signs are appearing all over this website. It's because Google decided to deactivate my account about a week-and-a-half ago. Now I'm faced with a long road to recovering.
Because these days, Google has gone to a single login account for all of its services, when they deactivate that account, you lose everything, your G-mail, Google Drive, Google+, AdSense, DFP for Publishers, Analytics, Picasa, Calendar, Docs, Apps, Groups, Webmaster Central, and even Blogger. If you're like me, and put all your eggs into Google's basket, they have the ability to delete your personal and professional life in a single stroke.
So why is this blog still here if Google deleted my account?
It's because I had the foresight to create a second Google account and made it an administrator on all of my blogs. So while my primary Google account was deleted, my blogs remained online because my other Google account was still there to claim administrative rights. I've logged into that other account to post this article.
Unfortunately, other Google services don't allow users to associate multiple admins, including my Picasa, Drive, Docs, and Google+, and therefore I've lost all that data, including the photos and graphic files used by Motorcycle Philosophy, and can't get it back.
Some of you might remember an old article of mine, "Riding Off Into the Cloud", where I talked about benefits of storing all your computer data on the "cloud". Well, it also comes with a huge risk.
I don't know why Google deactivated my account.
All I know is that when I turned on my Samsung Chromebook (which is a Google-based laptop that can only be used by logging into your Google account), I got a message telling me that my Google was deactivated due to a violation of their Terms of Service, effectively rendering the Chromebook unusable, at least for that account. I thought it was some strange glitch, and restarted the computer. But alas, the message still came up.
The message gave me a link to their appeals page, where I asked them what specific violation was made, and if I could at least get my files back. I had them send the answer to an alternative e-mail address.
I got back what appeared to be a prewritten response, telling me again that I had violated their Terms of Service, with no further explanation, and that my account was not eligible for reinstatement. Again, I asked them if I could at least get my files back, since nearly all of my business documents are stored there. No response.
Because I use so many of Google services, and I've been using them for 14 to 15 years now, I have no idea where the violation was made. I read over their Terms of Services, which is a long, detailed document, and I couldn't see that I had committed any violation. Each Google service provides users with messages that may include warnings about service abuses, but I don't recall anything saying that if I don't make corrections, they'll deactivate my account.
I met with my attorney. He's worked on other cases involving deactivated Google accounts.
"Sounds like you were picked up by some automated Google nebulous, and I doubt that you're on anyone's radar", he said, responding to concerns that I may have violated the law. When I asked him about getting my files back, he said, "You're better off walking away and starting over".
He went on to add that Google doesn't back down.
"They work with federal agents from all departments", he continued. "Obviously, they found something on you they don't like, and you don't want to play fire with them."
I walked away feeling sick to my stomach.
Others messaged me on Facebook that a lot of people were getting their accounts deactivated too. I read reports on forums that hackers are breaking into peoples' accounts to conduct illegal activity. Others suggested that there are files such as scripts, Office documents, and others that contain malware, that I may have stored them on my Google drive.
I put my Chromebook away, and bought myself a new Windows 8.1 laptop.
I've stopped storing files on the cloud, and am now storing them on an external hard drive.
I even set up a Microsoft Outlook account and a Yahoo account for web-based e-mail, and am testing them out.
As for Motorcycle Philosophy, Road Pickle, Sash Mouth, and several other blogs that I administer, I'll either keep them on Blogger, or convert them to a WordPress.org platform where I have more control.
Cloud-based storage is still a great idea, it's just really risky when the God who controls it has a sensitive trigger finger.