Dear Google

Dear Google,

I understand that security is important.

It’s embarrassing for you when accounts are hacked and people lose their info, money, secrets, etc.

But something needs to change.

I miss security questions.

I’m not sure who on your team came up with the idea of requiring one’s phone to log in from a new location, but I would guess they don’t travel in a budget type manner.

Let me tell you why this is a problem.

At the end of November, I was in India, just about to leave.

Seriously just about to leave…my taxi was heading to the airport in about 4 hours.

I went out to get food, and wouldn’t you know, some #*%&#(*$&#$)(#*%)# stole my phone. Timing, right?

After going to the police station and reporting the theft, I had to get my travel documents printed.

In India, you have to show your passport and ticket in order to even enter the airport. They won’t even let you into the airport earlier than 3 or 4 hours before your flight. I usually show the ticket on my phone.

Along with that, I had my puppy’s Emotional Support Approval letter from the airline, saying that she was allowed to fly in the cabin, on my phone.

But hey, I had all of the info in Gmail. No worries, I would go to an internet cafe and get everything printed.

However, at 10:30 pm, the one internet cafe I’d been to in the area was closed.

There was another close by, but I’d not been there.

Which meant that when I tried to log in, I couldn’t.

Gmail asked me to confirm who I was, using my phone. And when I clicked on the option that I didn’t have access to my phone, it took me back out of the log in process.

Brilliant, Google, brilliant.

I’d pretty well calmed down after my initial crying and swearing about my stolen phone, but this set things off again.

I had hardly any time left, I had to get the info, and it was impossible.

I had to contact my parents.

But the only way I could text them was through Gmail.

Went on Facebook, but their little green dot was gone. I still messaged them just in case, but there was no response.

So I started frantically posting statuses, requesting that someone call or text my parents. I tweeted, thinking that my Dad may still have those sent to his phone, and would come to the computer (he still has an old flip phone without internet).

Finally, after a friend called and texted both parents, and Dad saw the tweet, he came home. Then I had to walk him through finding the email with my flight number, and getting the letter for my dog.

He felt bad because he was having a hard time getting the stuff as soon as I needed it, because he’s not wildly computer literate. I kept trying to not get frustrated with him because he was doing all that he could. He didn’t make the stupid decisions about Google security.

During this time, my sweet little Nel earned her keep as an emotional support animal. I would have normally continued spirally down emotionally over all of this, but her presence pulled me out of that and reminded me to breathe and calm down.

I finally had all of the paperwork, but seriously, Google, you’re not supposed to make life that difficult.

It is not uncommon for travelers, especially those who are staying in slightly lower budget places, to have their phones stolen. And in that case, the next option will often be to go to a random internet cafe, in which is impossible to use Gmail in a stolen phone case.

Not everyone has parents who have access to their travel info like I do. And really, what if my Dad hadn’t been able to get home in time?

I understand that the typical security questions are a little too dangerous to use all the time. I mean, it’s way too easy to find out my Mom’s maiden name.

But how about some more difficult questions?

Or a series of questions?

Or something else.

Maybe require us to upload a photo and choose our photo out of a selection of similar photos?

There are so many options that do not require a phone, and which could be used no matter where the person is.

Or give the account owner the option to not require that much security (I’ve checked my settings and can’t find anywhere to fix that).

Anyway, at the end of the day, things ended well. I made it home, thanks to my Papa and his ability to follow directions even if he didn’t know how to do the stuff on his own.

Overall, I’m a big fan of Gmail, and will continue using it.

But I don’t trust it as much for travel anymore, after being let down like that.

Sincerely,

Laura

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5 thoughts on “Dear Google

  1. I feel bad you had to go through all that. I would have panicked like you. But you have suggested some good alternate security questions if you are really serious you can go send these as suggestions through the Gmail contact form.They are prompt in replying.

    Like

  2. wow I have always been a fan of two-factor authentication as a security measure, but this puts it all in perspective. What a disaster. I don’t know what you could have done, maybe called the embassy but that also sounds like a nightmare to deal with

    Like

    1. Yeah, I wouldn’t have thought it would ever be a problem. A hassle, yes, but probably a good hassle. And trying to go through the embassy probably would have meant missing my flight, so it was definitely the very last option I would have considered.

      Like

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