Have An Unhealthily Close Relationship With Google? Diversify Your Data

Tech writer Tienlon Ho learned a tough lesson when Google suddenly deactivated her account. Here’s what Ho’s jarring breakup with Gmail teaches us all about living and working online.

Have An Unhealthily Close Relationship With Google? Diversify Your Data

This is an inbox message you never want to see:


Account has been disabled . . . . In most cases, accounts are disabled if we believe you have violated either the Google Terms of Service, product-specific Terms of Service . . . . or product-specific policies . . . . it might be possible to regain access to your account.

And that’s just what tech writer Tienlon Ho saw on a recent Thursday. She was understandably miffed, writing that “it was like I’d gotten dumped, via text message, by someone en route to Cabo.” For Ho, the data party was elsewhere, and she wanted to be invited.

Though Google manages 343 million Google Plus accounts, its Android OS runs on 70 percent of the world’s smartphones, and 5 million businesses and 45 states rely on Google for their data storage, as Ho observes, the Organizer of the World’s Information is in no way obligated to guarantee its maintenance.

In the same message that told Ho her inbox was off limits, she learned of an ominous policy for the first time: that Google can “terminate your account at any time, for any reason, with or without notice.”

The incident shocked Ho into a realization about her relationship with Google: She had a codependence problem. And though her account was returned to her in less than a week–she learned it was likely deactivated because of a spreadsheet she had of clients’ names and passwords–Ho made the tough decision to start seeing other people.

What you can do

Ho says that she is “no longer monogamous” with Google–now her data’s with Evernote, Dropbox, and WordPress as well. Just as you should diversify your bonds to stay afloat, diversifying your data insulates you from a data fallout. It protects your digital neck, to paraphrase the generally NSFW Wu-Tang song.

For passwords and other highly sensitive information, using a “cloud vault” like can help you aggregate your personal data. As well, Google has a service called Takeout that lets you download an archive of your data.


But more than all that, it’s a good call to get (somewhat) off the cloud: Ho says it’s her “standby, not her steady.” She now stores her most crucial data–email backups included–on physical hard drives. This is, you could say, what it means to take your security into your own hands.

Dumped! by Google

[Image: Flickr user zeze57]

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.