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wnylibrarian's picture

My Google Ouroboros

I'm going to say at the outset I've done something stupid. Really stupid. We all have from time to time. There's something about serving as a warning to others. Don't do what I did. Of course, like many frustrating situations, you don't know what you've done until after the fact. As was in my case.
I recently purchased a new Pixel 5. I set up the phone. It had been working for several days. No issues. On Tuesday afternoon I noticed one of the apps I occasionally use wasn't logged in when I tapped on it. It prompted me for a password. I no longer remembered it. So I went ahead and used the new Google feature of suggesting strong passwords. I wrote it down. I know what it is. What I didn't realize is that it wasn't changing the app password -- somehow it had taken me out and I was changing the password to my Google account. Obviously had I known I would have stopped immediately. Clicked off, but I didn't. When I clicked Okay Google (quite understandably) immediately logged me out of all devices. My phone. My laptop. My tablet. Boom. Within 3 seconds the deed was done. Then Google asked me to log back in. Since I had two-factor authentication (2FA) enabled it sent a security code via SMS message to my recovery number.
That's the problem.
I setup the recovery options years ago, and knowing me I did it quickly and quickly means not thinking, and by my very admission out of force of habit it appears now that I had entered my Google Voice number. Google Voice is the number I use for everything and everyone. One problem, and a warning to others, don't use your Google Voice number for the account you're trying to recover. It is Ouroboros. Before you ask, "What was he thinking?", remember, I wasn't. I was no doubt typing too quickly for my own good.
My life is on that account. This domain you clicked on? It's managed through that account. It is auto-renewed through that account. I have other domains as well. Some of them used for testing other websites. I cannot log in and edit them. I need to have access to that account. Everything is run through there. Yes, an argument can be made about having all your eggs in one basket, but at the same time it was centralized management. There are pros and cons to everything, and the pros in this context have been great. Great until you get cut off from it.
Ever try reaching out to Google? Next to impossible, right? However, I had no other course of action. I need desperately, desperately, to get back into my account. So I signed up and paid for Google One in order to chat with someone. They said they could help me, of course, but that assistance only went as far as walking me through the Google Recovery Tool for accounts. All of which I had done -- multiple times. There is just no getting around the fact that the authentication code is being sent to both my Google number and Gmail of which I do not have access to. At the end of the day, and I did not like this part, I was told, "just make up a new account." No. That is not what I paid Google One for. That is just shrugging off the responsibility. Yes, I screwed up. Yes, I own the fact I wasn't paying attention when I did the recovery options. We've been through all that mia culpa stuff, but the fact is Google takes my money on a few different fronts. For domains; for Google One. Customers do bad things, and I'm one of them. I've also spent a career on the other side of this helping those who have had similar technology related accidents and brain cramps. I feel an obligation to exhaust every avenue possible. I'm still a paying customer, and to say just make a new account is rather flip. Yes, I can make a temporary account, but I need access to my primary one, and I need it ASAP. Can't we get some sort of ticket going? Anything?
A Possible Solution
Now even though I cannot access my account I am still receiving phone calls (not text) on my Google Voice number. So I can continue to operate receiving incoming calls. So there in lies a possible solution to this vicious circle. Not just for me, but for other users like me. The solution is not new.
Many other institutions give 3 options to recover an account. SMS text, email, or automated phone call. Google does the first two, they do not do the third. There is my dilemma. An automated call would get me out of this mess. I have already done it with Amazon.
Amazon also had my Google Voice number. I selected the option to receive a call. My phone rang. The automated voice gave me the code good for 10 minutes. I logged in via 2FA, and immediately went to my account information to change the number away from Google Voice given this current predicament I'm in.
This is what I need from Google. A call option. I have everything stored on my Google Drive. Documents, spreadsheets, vacation albums. Personal and professional. They are all there, in the cloud, because I didn't trust my own home server and hard drive. Let's face it, hard drives fail. It is best to store it in the cloud. I still believe that. It's part of the whole SaaS platform. All data is precious. All data is valuable whether it is mine or not. It's not just that aspect either. There are other phone apps that are tied in with that account. Google Tasks -- tasks I've created to remind me to do items not just daily, but weeks; months from now. I am no longer receiving those reminders. The older I get it goes in a task so I don't have to remember. Google Calendar -- events I have created such as doctor's appointments, work schedules, etc., are all under that account. It's not just restricted to having access to Gmail and documents. There are far reaching repercussions involved with this, and I'm sure there are many of you, such as myself, who live by their Google Calendar. Then one day because of a stupid mistake it wasn't there anymore. That effects things. Big time.
So this is my only recourse I can think of. An open ended plea that Google will realize this omission and give a call option to their account recovery tool. I need to have access to that account. At sunset each day is another day lost. Today is day 4 that I have been locked out of my account, and I will be quite frank I've been sick over this. I feel I've lost almost everything -- because I have. I've barely slept. I've barely eaten. I've been trying anything I can think of but I keep coming back to the Ouroboros. It's just such a road block. Great for security. Given the daily diatribe of ransomware attacks, the pipeline shut down, and all the ramifications that go with it security is good. Security is necessary. I am not advocating less security. Still, through everything, accidents happen. It happened to me. There has to be another option.
If I can log into my account my first action would be to fix the recovery options, obviously, but I need help. I'm not asking Google to change its security procedures. No one can go in and modify settings on any Google account they claim, and so did the support person at Google One. I get that part, but they could add another option to their Account Recovery Tool so I could get myself out of this mess.
So I beg Google to please add that to the options. I ask if you're reading this post to please re-share it. I think such an option would benefit us all when we do dumb things. We always do. We're human.
Lastly, I ask that you check your account recovery options for all accounts as I've been doing. Make sure that there are no emails, no phone numbers, nothing in there that you no longer have access to. A lot of talk is often made about making sure back ups are working by occasionally doing the database recoveries. It is also equally important to make sure that the recovery options are updated for any accounts that are set up in a similar way. Do it today. It's too important when an accident happens.