How much of your life is kept on Google accounts? Are all your documents saved on Google Drive? Family pics on Google Photos? Credit cards and gift cards on Google Wallet? Maybe you run a small business and do your marketing with Google AdWords? If so, you might want to start reading the “terms of services” very carefully. Several hundred people who purchased the new Google Pixel smartphone directly from Google in order to resell to a third party have found themselves locked out of their Google account. It starts with a friendly little letter…
…then escalates to a terrifying message:
Can’t say they weren’t warned. When buying the Pixel from the Google store, part of the terms & conditions state the following: “You may only purchase Devices for your personal use. You may not commercially resell any Device, but you may give the Device as a gift.” Even if it’s just your recovery account associated with such activity, both will be banned. Google, like a vengeful god, will sweep down upon any digital platform it controls and ban you from it. What makes things a little sketchy is that there’s no part of any of the notices that informs the locked-out what they did wrong. It took several of them putting their heads together to realize that the one thing they all had in common was buying the phones and having them shipped to a smartphone retailer in New Hampshire. This is the kind of thing that causes mess-in-your-pants panic: being severely punished for an unknown crime.
While most companies would simply serve a cease-and-desist letter to the New Hampshire company and impose a restriction on the number of phones being ordered (the current limit is 5), Google went ballistic. This is a textbook case of trust-betrayal, Google is essentially saying, “We’re giving you a good thing, don’t take advantage of it.” The forum that advertised and discussed the plan has reportedly been doing the same thing with Google’s Nexus phones with no issue. One can’t help but feel as if this is an overreach of power on Google’s part; if someone violates a legally binding contract (accepting the terms of service, in this case), you handle it properly and through legal channels. Holding data hostage just isn’t appropriate, especially since this can affect business owners.
After spreading the story around the various news outlets, the forum announced that Google has unlocked the accounts while reminding the guilty parties that they were in violation of their “fraud prevention efforts.” If anything, this was just a display of power, an extreme measure to scare off anyone else thinking of buying to resell. It’s scary to think that Google has this ability, and can do what they want with your data to mete out whatever they deem to be “justice” for whatever they deem to be wrong. This definitely brings up the question: How much of your life should you trust to one company?
Google’s new motto: Don’t be evil…and don’t mess with us.