Get digitally broad and have a backup plan

I just read this article as linked from today’s Briefing Day newsletter. It’s quick and really worth a read.

In short, it talks about a game developer who has for years been using Google products and services. He woke up one day to find himself locked out of all of that because, as he was notified, he had violated Google’s terms of service.

What he had done was never made clear to him, despite efforts to find out what happened. He was simply cut off and remains so.

The problem is, he was so deeply entrenched in use of Google services that, suddenly without access to email or his usual notes-taking app, it turned his professional and personal life upside down. He had used Google products and services because of how convenient and helpful they were–jotting notes on brainstorming in his Keep app, for instance, because he doesn’t have a great memory and wanted to have a copy of his ideas as they came to him–and along with the music he’d purchased from Google, he was suddenly denied access to all of that.

He’s not alone, as the article explains. This is happening to other people as well, and some quite recently. All cut off, all informed of their being cut off but without any specifics of what they’d done to have it happen.

There is a method of appealing such ban. But the quick reply to trying it, in this case, was a re-hash of his violating the terms of service and underscoring he was banned from Google products and services. Still no detail about what he had done, and with no other recourse for accessing or downloading the years of data and Google product purchases that he was now denied.

While the article is Google-specific, it speaks to a larger issue we should all take a good look at for ourselves: If any one massive service company–Google or Microsoft or Apple, etc.–should suddenly cut off our access to everything that company provides us with, without warning or recourse, would we be okay?

Would we still have access to our contacts and our communications and our work and our ideas? Or could that all potentially be locked up indefinitely by one company, whether enacted for some legitimate reason or just as a glitch in the system (which we may never know)?

I was asking this of myself after I’d finished the article. I have an Android phone, which itself is a Google product. If Google locked me out of their realm, would my phone as a whole be locked from my accessing anything on it?
Clearly I should get a copy of all my contacts, for starters.

I make a copy of all my photos on a computer fairly often (with varying degrees of frequency and success), but should be more on top of that, lest anything since my last photo backup be effectively gone forever.

I left Gmail already, so have no particular concerns about access to email. But I do use Keep a lot, for everything from quick story ideas to reminders and shopping lists. I have an Evernote account already, and keeping reminders and shopping lists is the very tippy top of the iceberg of what it can do–and happily, it’s accessible by browser as well as an app on the phone, meaning I wouldn’t lose any of what I saved there if I got locked out of the phone–so I’ll definitely start using that more.

And speaking of browsers, I’d be in the clear there because I use Firefox almost exclusively. I have Chrome on the phone and computers for the very rare occasions when Firefox is acting up, but I certainly don’t rely on it. Unlike my wife (a teacher, who’s obliged to use Google Classroom, which plays best with Chrome) and my daughter (who’s virtual schooling and does so through Chrome as well).

Whoo boy, I have zero idea what they’d do if either of them was locked out of Google.

One thing at a time, though…

On the whole, with a bit of forethought that I’ll get on immediately, I wouldn’t be too badly off if Google locked me out. Certainly not as much so as the people the article is about.

I wouldn’t be super if Microsoft decided I could no longer access any Windows-based computers, because that’s mainly what I use. But then, I’ve recently started using Sync to back up my photos and writing, so I’d at least have access to all my files through a Mac instead. So I guess I’d switch from relying on one mega company to another.

What about you?

How would you be if you were suddenly locked out of your primarily used tech giant? If the answer’s any variation of “pretty bad”, it’s sensible to ensure you have backups of, and access to, everything important that’s been saved on other platforms.

It’s your digital life, after all. Make sure it’s protected.