This morning I find myself unable to access my personal Gmail account. Like many of you, surely, I have several email addresses. Until an hour ago, the roster included my work account, the blog account at Yahoo, and an account for newsletters, also at Yahoo. (ahem, Brora, Brooks Brothers and J. Crew), . Oh, and the afore-mentioned, now kidnapped, Gmail.
Google says there has been unusual activity in my account, and requires that I give them a phone number to get back in. Not an email account, mind you. I’d be fine with that. I’m set up for that. But I’m don’t want to give Google my phone numbers. Not my landline, and certainly not my mobile. It feels like life-tracking ransom. I suspect, perhaps wrongly, that this is part of their efforts to unseat the iPhone and make the Android platform more valuable.
And I wonder, will Google doom themselves with their own ubiquitous success? Other infrastructure industries were eventually regulated, railways, gas lines, telephone service. As a result, anyone who wants to record a phone call has to prove necessity. Google, however, can track us six ways from Sunday. I’ve assumed no evil intent; I’m not particularly Libertarian. But one wonders. “Fie upon the rascals!” I say. “Fie upon their bullying user interface!”
I am perhaps making a mountain out of a molehill. Maybe it’s innocent. Maybe I’m just not seeing the button, or the link, to “If you don’t want to give us your phone number, here’s another security verification process.” I welcome anyone who can show me my mistake. I prefer a world without underhandedness of any sort.
In the meantime, friends and family, in case you wonder why I’m not answering any Gmail, I’m holding out. Holding out with my old friend Yahoo. Who, although they might have wanted to own the world, just weren’t up to it. Capitalism is sometimes best in its more docile incarnation.
UPDATE: I sent a message into the deep depths of Google help, and received the following email in reply. <<We apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced. The issue you described should now be resolved.>> Guess what. There are people in there. All is not lost. Happy Sunday to all.