Thursday, May 23, 2024

Why not put all my digital eggs in my Google Cart?


Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Google has created a large number of services, all of which can be accessed through a single account. In fact, with a few exceptions here and there (YouTube, Google Search, Google Maps), you can’t actually use most of the company’s core services without first creating an account.

Needless to say, having all these services under one roof is very convenient. However, I’ve never felt 100% comfortable with one Google account for everything. I’ll tell you why and what to do about it.

Google has trouble keeping all my eggs in the basket

Gmail photos on smartphone 2

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

I’m sure it’s an irrational fear, but I’m always worried about something going wrong with my Google account. I already knew that if my account was hacked or if Google shut down for whatever reason, a large part of my digital life would disappear if my Google account was no longer available.

A big part of my digital life is gone if I can’t access my Google account.

That means no more Gmail inbox, Play Store purchases, YouTube profile, Google Chrome browsing data, Drive files, YouTube Music and Google Photos backups. So I had to start my digital presence from scratch if I subscribed to the giant Mountain View services.

Google is no stranger to unexplained bans or shutdowns

Google Drive logo in smartphone photo album 1

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

However, these concerns are completely unfounded, as Google’s algorithm-based processing approach means that errors are not uncommon, and sometimes people get their accounts banned for no apparent reason.

As a Redditor discovered in 2018, there are times when Google takes a tough approach to bans. Users returned the devices to Google, but the company charged their account anyway. When they decided to dispute the transaction and charge their bank (apparently after contacting the company several times), Google banned them.

There is no shortage of news about Google Account holders who have been unfairly or mistakenly banned.

We’ve also seen some blatant examples of Google banning accounts that aren’t directly related to Terms of Service violations. For example, the company reportedly disabled mobile game developer Ali Natalizadeh’s personal account and a business account associated with his mobile game studio Raya Games. The false ban comes months after a former Raya Games developer’s account was first banned from his personal account. Natalizadeh said her request to appeal the ban was denied, but Google improperly reinstated the banned accounts after the story went viral on Reddit.

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Similarly, during YouTuber Markiplier’s broadcast in November 2019, Google unfairly banned users for spamming, despite the host apparently encouraging it. The ban applies to users’ entire Google accounts instead of their YouTube profiles.

A Google ban for one service applies to all of its services.

Here’s the downside of having all these Google services bundled into one account: a Google ban on one service will also apply to its other services.

Hacking is always another concern given the cat and mouse nature of digital security.

Another incident late last year reinforced my belief that I must have had more alternatives. My original email account (long ago with a local South African service), which I had for over 15 years, was inexplicably closed later in the year. I’m not the only one, as it turns out Little Other People I mentioned that their accounts no longer exist.

Another email service has closed my account for 15 years. What if you googled the same thing?

Fortunately, I’ve been steadily migrating away from this account over the years, and it wasn’t a universal email service to begin with. However, my main thought was, “What if the same thing happens to my Google account?” I’ve seen enough Google services die at this point that I know nothing is impossible.

Google previously did: Those failed Google products could have been awesome

What do I do instead?

OneDrive backup image

Although I still use a lot of Google services, I’ve embraced alternatives as long as I’ve been using smartphones. After all, it’s important for Google to have viable competitors because it creates competition in the space and makes everyone better. Microsoft’s OneDrive and Outlook are very helpful in this regard, while I often use Ecosia for my mobile web browsing needs.

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Opera is also my primary desktop browser. Yeah, yeah, Edge is a great alternative these days, but Opera is a survivor from the days when I had a budget laptop and Google Chrome was a bigger RAM hog than it is now. I still use Chrome on my phone, but I spend more time in the excellent Kiwi browser because of its Chrome extension support.

Microsoft One Drive, Ecosia Search, Kiwi Browser – there is no dearth of Google services.

It may seem like I should quit Google altogether, but I’m not ready to take the deGoogle route just yet. I enjoy using the company’s services and am more aware of the trade-offs in terms of privacy. Having an account for all Google services is very convenient.

Are there alternatives to Google services?

88 votes

What else can be done?

Google Pixel 5A close-up of the Google logo

Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Aside from using alternative services and putting your digital eggs in too many baskets, there are some steps you can take to protect your Google Account.

For starters, you can take reasonable precautions like using two-factor authentication for your various accounts. This provides additional protection for your account, requiring malicious actors to have your phone to gain access to your Google Account.

For your security, set up two-factor authentication and avoid using Google’s built-in password manager.

The next step is to avoid using Google’s built-in password manager. Because all of your account credentials are stored in Google, anyone with access to your account can technically sign in to many of your services. If you lose access to your Google Account and cannot remember your credentials, you will be denied access to every non-Google service. A third-party manager like LastPass or 1Password is a smart precaution because it relies entirely on a separate account and master password.

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Our picks: Best Password Manager Apps for Android

Another tip is to set up automatic email forwarding from your Gmail inbox to another email provider. You can also ensure that your work and personal data are separated as much as possible. This can be done by using different Google Accounts for work and personal use, then setting up personal and work profiles in Chrome so your browsing data and work/home credentials are separated from each other. This can help a lot if an account is hacked.

Separate your personal and work accounts, send your emails and back up your data. Make sure you don’t lose too much by losing your Google account.

Regularly back up your data locally or to other services. For example, you should back up Google Photos and Google Drive content to another cloud storage service or external hard drive. If you have content on these services, you may want to do the same for YouTube and YouTube Music. You can get a downloadable copy of all your data using Google Takeout.

Either way, the chances of your Google account being locked or hacked are low but not zero. Personally, it doesn’t hurt to have backup options in case this ever happens. My mitigations don’t benefit from occasionally allowing me to discover more services and apps I want than Google services.

Completeness: Worst technical decision I’ve ever made with a G Suite account for personal use

Stuart Wagner
Stuart Wagner
"Professional coffee fan. Total beer nerd. Hardcore reader. Alcohol fanatic. Evil twitter buff. Friendly tv scholar."

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