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Cloud Google

Gmail Accidentally Resets 150,000 Accounts 401

Posted by samzenpus
from the did-you-need-that-mail? dept.
tsj5j writes "Many users have reported loss of their Gmail accounts, as they signed in to find their email accounts reset — losing years of email history. This appears to be a result of a bug which treats existing owners as new users. For those affected, Google is currently trying to resolve the problem. For the rest of us, perhaps this is a timely reminder to backup our data and be less trusting of the cloud."
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Gmail Accidentally Resets 150,000 Accounts

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  • Tag it (Score:2, Funny)

    by inpher (1788434)
    Oh, how I want to tag this story gfail.
  • IMAP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jdb2 (800046) * on Monday February 28, 2011 @08:10AM (#35336936) Journal
    This is *exactly* why I have my Gmail account linked to Thunderbird via IMAP and I perform regular backups.

    jdb2
    • by Randyll (1914386)
      I am doing the opposite. GMail is just a POP3 client for me. I prefet it to most non-web e-mail clients as its user interface works well and looks better than most clients, e.g. Thunderbird. All mail is on the POP3 server -- which has backups -- GMail just duplicates it.
      • by Compaqt (1758360)

        Do you find leaving mail on a POP3 server is better than downloading locally to an mbox ?

        Just wondering what's better for long-term archiving of lots of mail.

        Anybody know the limitations of mbox files?

        • My policy with mboxes is to never trust them farther than you can kick them. Horrible format.

        • by snookiex (1814614)

          Just wondering what's better for long-term archiving of lots of mail

          I prefer a "distributed backup" (pst files on every user's computer with a general backup manager). Yeah, I know. It's way harder to manage, but I've had a couple problem with single backup that keeps me from centralize everything. And it's only 70 PCs so it's not a big deal (larger infrastructures are another story).

        • by Raenex (947668)

          Do you find leaving mail on a POP3 server is better than downloading locally to an mbox ?

          One thing to be careful about, if you meant download and then delete from the server, is having access when you're not "local". I used to do this and screwed myself over once when I needed access to a particular email while on travel.

    • by Larryish (1215510)

      Ditto on the Thunderbird/IMAP bit.

    • Unfortunately, Thunderbird doesn't appear to have the most efficient mail store for Gmail accounts, due to Gmail's system of supporting single messages with multiple labels (folders). If I have messages with multiple labels, it appears that Thunderbird downloads and stores the message multiple times, in multiple disk files.

      Is anyone aware of an alternative that "intelligently" supports Gmail? I.E., simply downloading "All Mail", and then creating a database from each label to the associated Message-ID's i

      • Does Tbird even store all that stuff locally? It always seems to connect whenever I search (though my profile is 13GB). I agree with you on the annoying way it shows multiple instances of the same email.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by JamesP (688957)

      I wouldn't trust Thunderbird not to mess this up...

      For a Mozilla product, TB is really poor.

    • Re:IMAP sync (Score:4, Interesting)

      by qubezz (520511) on Monday February 28, 2011 @11:14AM (#35338602)

      I suppose a prudent question: when you do an IMAP sync, does it wipe off the local copies just when the remote copy has been flagged deleted, or does it also go further: if you sync to a "reset" remote account, would Tbird's IMAP recognize the local emails no longer exist at the remote and toast your local folders? Will IMAP sync easily upload a whole gmail mailbox back up to a reset account? Time to look at IMAP protocol a little more closely, since we can't 'reset' our own gmail accounts this way to test recovery techniques.

      Backing up your local profiles regularly to recover against a "gmail wiped all my emails" or even a "hacker deleted all my emails" scenario would seem a reasonable precaution.

  • by intellitech (1912116) * on Monday February 28, 2011 @08:17AM (#35336982)

    At least, I wouldn't then have to clean it.

  • by dtmos (447842) * on Monday February 28, 2011 @08:18AM (#35336990)

    I mean, even its name is vaporous.

    • But it's so soft and fluffy and will cradle you in a cushion of customer service who will get you back up and running in no time! /humor

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I'm an instrument-rated private pilot and have flown small aircraft into clouds probably hundreds of times. They are not soft and fluffy at all, but are very turbulent and sometimes even quite violent inside. Even the "little puffy" isolated clouds you often see floating along on a warm spring afternoon can shake up a 3000 pound fully-loaded Cessna 182 very strongly.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 28, 2011 @08:24AM (#35337048)
      Exactly. "Oh, I think I'll put all my important information completely under someone else's control. That way, when it's lost, I can just point the finger at the cloud instead of taking responsibility for my own data."
      • by delinear (991444) on Monday February 28, 2011 @08:44AM (#35337194)
        Actually, given the technical ability of the average person, that's probably not a bad thing. This way they have at least some chance of someone technically competent at Google solving the issue for them. If they'd stored it locally and wiped it they'd probably be kissing goodbye to it instead of having a reasonable chance of recovering it. For most people's lolcat and pyramid mails that's a good enough solution - obviously if you're relying on it for storing your company accounts then that's another matter.
      • Not everyone has an IT staff. I would prefer that CEOs DIDNT "take responsibility" for their own data, as thats not really their core competency.

        Who do you trust more to keep things operational, a PHB of a 10 employee startup, or Google's Docs team?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 28, 2011 @09:58AM (#35337762)

        The idea that everyone should personally handle backing up their email is insanity. If you're a professional at this stuff, then fine, do it at home as well. But for nearly everyone in the population, gmail is going to be vastly more reliable than any backup scheme they come up with at home.

        For the average smtp/pop user, email works like this:
        1. Grab all the new messages off the server.
        2. Read a few, respond to fewer.
        3. Leave all of them on the PC's non-backed-up hard drive forever.
        4. Eventually buy a new computer, losing all previous messages.
        5. Discard the old computer with all the old mail sitting wide open on the HD, along with Quicken, etc., for any attacker who happens upon it.

        Gmail is a _vast_ improvement in security and reliability over what non-technical people wind up doing with smtp-based mail.

        • by hawguy (1600213)

          The idea that everyone should personally handle backing up their email is insanity. If you're a professional at this stuff, then fine, do it at home as well. But for nearly everyone in the population, gmail is going to be vastly more reliable than any backup scheme they come up with at home.

          Backing up your hosted email doesn't mean having to run your own SMTP daemon... I don't see how making a backup of cloud hosted data could be construed as bad advice. It's not hard to use an IMAP client that stores a copy of messages locally, and no matter how bad the user's backups are, Gmail + some local backup is better than Gmail + no local backup.

          This isn't the first time Google has lost email [techcrunch.com] and it won't be the last.

    • by nexttech (1289308) on Monday February 28, 2011 @08:47AM (#35337218)
      Because its safer then my hard drive.

      It would be interesting to see how many users had their hard drive crash and lost everything yesterday.
    • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Monday February 28, 2011 @09:16AM (#35337408)

      It comes down to who you trust more. I have several clients who are looking at email solutions; two options are "host it inhouse with exchange and backup to tape / backupexec", or "Google Docs, and let a dedicated team handle it".

      At the end of the day, they arent going to want to pay for my time to monitor backups, or perform restore testing, or rotate tapes daily. So do i trust that non-technical users will remember to rotate daily (I have several who forget, not realizing its importance despite reminders), or do I trust that Google will overall have less downtime and fewer disasters than a server with no physical monitoring or weekly maintenance?

      I will note that gMail's track record is pretty darn good since its inception; I only remember seeing 2-3 other stories like this in that time, with % affected being very low in a few cases, and I do not ever remember seeing a permenant data-loss scenario. Contrast to the real world, where I go to do a restore for said clients, and it turns out they havent rotated tapes in ages, or the tape drive has needed cleaning for years, or their online backup that they picked out (sans my advice) doesnt actually capture exchange or system state... etc.

      So sure, make claims that "the cloud" is untrustworthy... but there are scores of companies that rely on consultants for server setup and then never have an IT person set foot in the "server room" for several years thereafter-- and thats PRECISELY the market that "the cloud" is perfect for. You offload IT work from non-skilled folks to skilled folks, with the downside of relying on connectivity (though gmail has offline mode...).

      • by houghi (78078)

        Why is it that IT people think in OR/OR and not in AND/AND. GMail supports Imap and pop3, so making a solution where one is the backup of the other should not be something very hard.

        OTOH, deleting your email once in a while is not THAT bad. The amount of times I actually accessed mails from + 1 year is zero. It is easier to get the information anew then it is to find the correct email (even with grepm).

    • by Verunks (1000826)
      like this would never happen if you run your own mailserver, I personally trust google more than myself, they have who knows how many servers just for gmail, if one goes down it's not a problem since the filesystem is distributed iirc.
      Can you have the same uptime for FREE with your own server? of course not since you actually have to either buy a server and pay the electricity bill or rent a dedicated/shared server somewhere but still pay a fee
      I have been using gmail for more than six years now and I had
    • by Rary (566291)

      What idiot trusts the cloud? I mean, even its name is vaporous.

      How important is your personal email?

      I have two gmail accounts. One of them I'd hardly notice if it got reset. The other one, I might be mildly annoyed for about a minute, but then I'd get over it and continue happily using it.

      The cloud is appropriate for some uses. I want access to my email from anywhere, I don't want to manage it, and there's nothing overly private about the data— 50% of the emails I get are short reminders that I send to myself when I'm at work and think of something I'll need to d

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 28, 2011 @08:18AM (#35336992)

    There is only one person in the world who values my data enough to protect it properly, and that person is me.

    • by camperdave (969942) on Monday February 28, 2011 @08:27AM (#35337068) Journal

      There is only one person in the world who values my data enough to protect it properly, and that person is me.

      ...And I don't eve trust that person to do it properly.

    • by 1s44c (552956) on Monday February 28, 2011 @08:30AM (#35337092)

      There is only one person in the world who values my data enough to protect it properly, and that person is me.

      Dam right. Trusting your email to a company who's main business is mining data can't be safe either. Having your data spread out over god knows how many countries and subject to the whims of who knows what government agencies doesn't sound like a good idea.

      I run my own mail server and do nightly backups of my whole mailstore. Any decent linux admin should be able to setup a cheap virtual machine and a BackupPC server at home to do the same. In fact any decent linux admin should enjoy setting it up.

      • And what do you do when your house burns to the ground with both your cheap virtual machine and BackupPC? I'd say it would be quite nice to have yor data stored somewhere else in addition to your own private backup system. With that said, of course it does not have to be Google or another multi national corporation storing the data for you. Find someone and pay them for it. Then sue them if they do something bad with your data :)
        • And what do you do when your house burns to the ground with both your cheap virtual machine and BackupPC?

          If you were competent you will have arranged an off-site backup, maybe not every day but at least occasionally.

    • by SharpFang (651121)

      That's what THEY want you to think!

    • Yes, only you have 100% alignment with your interests. But are you competent to backup and guard your data properly? Same thing with my house. But I would rather outsource my security to my local municipality and hire some private security monitoring firm for additional security. At some point cost benefit analysis should be done. Gmail's reliability is much better than what you would expect for a free service.
  • Yay cloud. (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Yay cloud.

  • by Mascot (120795) on Monday February 28, 2011 @08:21AM (#35337012)

    A stand-alone application seems the safest way to go. Personally, I use MailStore [mailstore.com] (free home edition) to ensure a local backup of my Gmail mails.

    I suspect offline access via Gears wouldn't help much in this case. It's supposed to stay in sync so I guess logging into an empty account would sync the local gears data into oblivion as well. The same would presumably be true of a local IMAP client (though that could at least be recovered from a backup and then opened in offline mode).

    • An empty account would likely (maybe?) not have offline access enabled, and it is disabled by default. Possibly it could help.

    • How do you access the backup if mailstore folds? Is the database in a cleartext or html readable format, or is it proprietary? I couldn't find the answers on the website, as everything is geared (naturally) toward the paid version.

      • by Mascot (120795)

        You can export to a number of file formats (Outlook, Thunderbird, plain text files etc), as well dumping it to an IMAP account or via SMTP.

  • by carou (88501) on Monday February 28, 2011 @08:22AM (#35337016) Homepage Journal

    I demand my money back!

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      Google already did.
      Check your account transcript; you will find you recieved exactly nothing from Google.

  • ...and be less trusting of the cloud.

    Sorry, can't. I don't trust it at all.

  • Gmail-Backup (Score:5, Informative)

    by dHeinemann (1954876) on Monday February 28, 2011 @08:23AM (#35337026)
    This is exactly why it's important to keep backups. Gmail Backup [gmail-backup.com] is a pretty straightforward way to back up your Gmail account. You can also use it to upload emails from one account into another.
    • by Mascot (120795)

      That page doesn't render for me in Firefox or Chrome. View source draws a complete blank as well. Slashdotted or otherwise broken?

  • While I still love my gmail account, I also know of so many stories of people close to me who have lost their gmail accounts due to some weird glitch or choice made by Google. Yet, I'm still a fan of the service and maintain mine. I just don't use it as my main account because I realize that any one time I can probably lose it. Whenever you rely on a service that requires trust in an entity that might not be there tomorrow, or has a tendency to do really weird things without first informing customers, you r
    • by linuxgurugamer (917289) on Monday February 28, 2011 @08:42AM (#35337180) Homepage

      Happened with Bigfoot.com. They advertised free unlimited email, then one day they started limiting it to 20 messages a day. I left them as soon as I was able to change all the accounts pointing to it.

      Now I have my own domain, and while it's on a CPanel-based box somewhere in Texas, I can do regular nightly backups of everything, and if I need to can move it to another host and simply change the DNS.

    • by pmontra (738736)

      [...] I also know of so many stories of people close to me who have lost their gmail accounts [...]

      I know somebody who's got his gmail password stolen and changed. He's locked out from his mail now and no, there are no local backups. That made me like even more my habit of using gmail only as a POP3 server and download everything to my notebook. I sync it to my netbook with unison when I need my updated mail on the smaller box. I've got some gmail accounts (1 mine + a few customers) and some other POP3 ones for my own companies and but one can't leave anything important there. I'm at about 101,000 messag

  • I suspect this bug was avoidable. The thing with Google is they are learning what it's like when you abandon the policy of doing no evil. You lose sight of the important things like minimalism, reduction of bloat, and overall user satisfaction.

    They are no longer reliable.

    The replacement for Google will do the following:

    1. Create stable search with minimalist reliable results, perhaps P2P generated.
    2. Not cater to douchebags on the internet trying to get rich quick.
    3. Supply secure/reliable minimalist email

    • 10. Become the new search engine of choice and cruft out every offering with stupid and useless javascript misfeatures, dirty datamining tricks, and other miscellaneous trash .

      It's the circle of fail. </EltonJohn>

  • While there are not (as yet, as far as I've seen) any people yelling and shouting for heads to role because some of their precious data is lost, I expect it to start soon.

    There are far too few people who understand the danger of having only one copy of information, and people seem even more naive when that copy is help by another party (they assume that someone else is dealing with it, and seem to expect there will be some sort of come-back if the service they pay nothing for loses some of their info).
    • by slim (1652)

      While there are not (as yet, as far as I've seen) any people yelling and shouting for heads to role because some of their precious data is lost, I expect it to start soon.

      There are far too few people who understand the danger of having only one copy of information, and people seem even more naive when that copy is help by another party (they assume that someone else is dealing with it, and seem to expect there will be some sort of come-back if the service they pay nothing for loses some of their info).

      The expectation is that the 3rd party (Google in this case) are doing the backing up for you. If you were paying for Google Apps, you'd make damned sure your contract says so. As a free GMail user, I admit I haven't read the small print recently, but my assumption is that my data is "backed up". "Backed up" in quotes, because rather than there being a regular copy made to tape or whatever, their storage grid inherently has everything in multiple places.

      They seem to be saying they'll recover the mailboxes in

    • I know one place where the value of backups is learned hard and fast: Grad School. I warned my classmates (read: I explained to them how paranoid I was) but everyone scoffed until on of them lost 6 months of thesis work. Never have I seen the phrase "spooked the herd" so convincingly demonstrated. Next thing you knew "saving" your work meant clicking save (to thumbdrive), clicking print, clicking email-to, and copy-to-network. We had two more people "lose work" who were subsequently saved by the process

    • by Ephemeriis (315124) on Monday February 28, 2011 @09:18AM (#35337432)

      Honestly, I think that for most people this just isn't a concern.

      Most folks have been bitten by the lack of a backup at some point. You can't tell me they've never been working on a paper for a class and had the machine crap out on them - losing many pages of work. You can't tell me they've never been playing a game and had the machine crap out on them - losing a couple hours of progress. You can't tell me they've never sent an SD card through the laundry - losing some irreplaceable photos. You can't tell me they've never clicked "submit" on some forum comment or Facebook post and had the website malfunction - losing whatever witty thoughts they had at the time.

      It happens all the freaking time.

      But, for the most part, that information isn't all that valuable.

      Folks will curse and mutter... And then re-type their paper, or re-play the game, or live without those pictures.

      Folks won't feel like they need to back up their data until they're really burned by it. Just telling people that they need to make backups is not enough. Just teaching it in class isn't enough. Folks need to lose something that they care about.

  • This is a bit of a worry, as I am considering moving a client over to google apps sometime eventually.
    I myself have a LOT on my gmail I should probably backup but I do understand it's my responsibility, even though I don't have one at the moment.
    I wonder if there's a simple sure fire way of grabbing the whole lot once every 3 months, anyone know a tool to do this?

    Also since this is as good a place to ask as any, how many here have moved business' over to Google Apps for mail? I am considering doing so, but

    • Aren't "labels" the solution to that in gmail?

      • by AbRASiON (589899) *

        Labels are how folders are actually handled. An email would get multiple labels per folder.

        So
        Inbox \ Client \ Project #222 \ Customer Name \ Visa
        Would get FIVE labels on it - and there seems to be a limit or punctuation limit and so on for those.

        You have to remember, these end users need to use an IMAP'd version of Outlook. Suggesting they use plain old Gmail won't work for them :/ (and as someone who uses a lot of mail, I'd agree - Outlook is actually a very good mail client)

        • by cronius (813431)

          If you use a forward slash instead of backward in the folder name, you might trick your mail client to arrange the mail in a tree structure. I noticed this with GMail in Evolution on Ubuntu.

          YMMV.

          • by drewness (85694)

            If you use a forward slash instead of backward in the folder name, you might trick your mail client to arrange the mail in a tree structure. I noticed this with GMail in Evolution on Ubuntu.

            YMMV.

            That's not so much tricking the client, but rather a feature that Google added to GMail a few years ago. If you put a slash in a label name it makes nested folders in IMAP, and also if you go into the Labs settings in GMail, there's a "Nested Labels" lab you can enable to get it in the web interface.

  • This is horrible. Losing years of email because of some glitch in service provider is totally unacceptable. We demand an immediate refund of every cent we paid for our gmail service. And 100 times that as punitive damages. That will teach them to treat us with more dignity.
  • I want gmail to offer an image system, where by you ask to download an image (zipped of course) of the current state of your email folders and configs and all contacts, into a nicely zipped file. Then you can restore or backup using the notion as in VSS, which makes it very easy to maintain backups for individuals, especially those that do not want to wait long hours to use something crappy like outlook to manage their backups of emails. Also it would solve the bulk upload/download situation...as it would b

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Monday February 28, 2011 @08:53AM (#35337256) Journal
    Simple solution: Create a second gmail account to serve as the back up. Always BCC: this account every mail you send from the main account. Auto forward every received mail to this account. Chances of gmail wiping both due to the same glitch is remote. This is likely to be as safe, as reliable as mucking around with imap clients running on some home grown hand-me-down server and cron jobs to take periodic back ups. Far cheaper too.
  • by SpinningCone (1278698) on Monday February 28, 2011 @08:55AM (#35337272)

    this is easier to shrug off if you think of it as just average users using gmail. in general it's a personal mail and not intended for business. still hurts but there's only you to be upset.

    the university i work at is working on migrating towards gmail for .edu domains. we have already moved our alumni to gmail and are progressing towards all students, faculty and staff on gmail.

    It would be quite the s*hitstorm if some or most of our employees lost their email.

  • For those of us who does not care can this be added as a new feature to clean out our mailbox rather than manually deleting junk mail a page at a time.

  • by RivenAleem (1590553) on Monday February 28, 2011 @08:59AM (#35337298)

    Google has already stated they have a resolution, but it may take a little time to implement. They have backups, and will restore the accounts. This seems like a case of:

    Something went wrong, they're fixing it.

    The End.

  • by mmsimanga (775213) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {agnamismm}> on Monday February 28, 2011 @09:14AM (#35337396) Homepage

    Perhaps living in Africa has given me a liaise faire approach to archiving mail. Life goes on with or without your years of email. In my working career I have always diligently backed up all mailboxes as I moved from one exchange server to another all with the belief that one day I would go back and read through my mails. I have never done this and I doubt I will be doing so in the near future. Over the years I have lost/misplaced some of the DVDs containing my vast collection of email and I have never felt the need to dig through the attic to locate some DVD with an important email stored on it.

    I am struggling to read through my day to day mail. I am not going to bother setting up a backup server because I do not have the time to maintain it and I doubt I will do a better job that the "professionals" at Google. To those who lost their data I feel your pain but believe me there are worse things that can happen in life. Have a glass of wine and start your Inbox afresh.

    • Work-email isn't backed up because you think someday you're going to read it. It's to cover your ass down the line when the shit hits the fan. Like when you get accused of violating a patent, but your email proves that you were doing it years before the patent was even filed.

      Also, it's so you can write snarky emails: "I as I told you on November 17th 2004, in order to..."

      • by ledow (319597)

        Correct. You have no idea how many people I've managed to drop in it by producing an email record of something. From large suppliers, to tiny little in-house spats, it's invaluable to have a record. Most of the time, I wouldn't have even *thought* of archiving that email specifically, but it ended up being crucial.

        As a rule, I don't drop people in it, but when the finger points, some people will do ANYTHING to avoid the blame, even when they KNEW it was their fault. Rather than put their hands up, they'

  • Can't complain. We were all warned that it is a BETA product. That means things can go horribly wrong, and they warned us it wasn't really ready to be used yet.
  • This may not seem like a huge problem for many like myself that simply POP my account with Google, but my son is on a Google CR-48 prototype notebook. He has everything on the cloud. There really isn't a good way for him to backup to the notebook itself. That means that if the account is deleted, he loses all his work on the Doc's too. That would not be good.
  • read the sig !

  • ... Google accidentally (almost) the whole thing.
  • by GWBasic (900357) <slashdot@a[ ]ewr ... m ['ndr' in gap]> on Monday February 28, 2011 @11:31AM (#35338794) Homepage

    For the rest of us, perhaps this is a timely reminder to backup our data and be less trusting of the cloud.

    Pardon the slashvertisement, but Syncplicity [syncplicity.com] lets you synchronize Google Docs with a folder on multiple computers. You can choose either Word or OpenOffice formats; and then edit Google Docs files in Word or Open Office, even without an internet connection. The changes then are uploaded into Google Docs.

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