Update

It amuses me that this post continues to get so much attention. If you do a search for "Thanks Google" it is currently the top hit. However, it's important to note that the original incident occurred over 3 years ago. My daughter is now old enough to legitimately have her own  account. So, if people are going to continue to find and read this post, I though it was important to provide some updated information.

1) I have no idea if the situation is the same today as it was three years ago. Things may have improved greatly, or the procedures I used to work through the problem may no longer work. If you're looking for advice on dealing with your own issues, be aware that everything in this post is sadly out of date. Three years is eons ago in internet time.

2) While I was angry when I first wrote this, my main complaint wasn't that Google shut down the account. I was upset by the unbelievably poor customer service experience. 

The original letter they sent was threatening and somewhat scary. They did not provide a clear path towards resolving the problem. Their communication raised more questions than it answered, and they did not provide any means to get my questions answered. That, quite frankly, is unacceptable.

Let’s face it. Gmail belongs to Google. They have the right to do whatever they want with the service. However, they're not just a couple of kids running a startup out of a garage anymore. Google is a major corporation, and as one of their customers, I believe we should expect better from them.

3) I was able to resolve the situation by using a credit card to claim the account as my own, and then letting my daughter use the account under my supervision. Once she was 13, I turned the account over to her.  So, in the end, nothing was lost.

4) Just a bit of advice, please refrain from commenting about or criticizing another person's parenting decisions--especially when you’ve never met the individuals involved, and you don’t know them. Criticizing how someone chooses to raise their children is unbelievably rude. It’s an ultra-mega-dick move. Don’t be a dick.

Original Post

Hey Google, thanks for making my daughter cry.

Several years ago I set up a gmail account for my daughter so she could send email to her grandparents. At the beginning of this school year, she started using it much more actively to send messages to her friends and classmates. She also started a blogger blog as a class project.

Then, we woke up this morning to find that Google had disabled both her blog and her email account--apparently because she is under age.

Now, I don't remember seeing anything about the age restriction when I originally set up her account. And I understand that Google needs to comply with COPPA, but all of that is really beside the point.

My complaint is about the way Google has chosen to act in this matter--both the fact that they didn't notify us at all--they simply turned off the account without any warning, locking up all her data, preventing us from accessing it. And, more importantly, in the way they chose to implement their COPPA compliance.

Remember, COPPA places restrictions on websites. It limits the information that Google can collect about children. Google could be 100% COPPA compliant if they simply changed the way they collect data. And, in fact, Google does this already. They provide COPPA compliant email accounts for children under 13 from their Apps for Education domains.

So let's be clear here. There's no legal reason behind Google's decision to block my daughter's account. They've chosen to implement these age restrictions in this particular way. They've chosen to lock up my daughter's data without warning. They've chosen to threaten to delete the data.

Remember, we're talking about letters from grandparents and friends. I can't even log in and back them up. They're just gone.

Google could have made other choices--choices that are more customer friendly, more child friendly and more parent friendly. But they didn't. They've chosen to act in a dogmatic, inflexible way. They've chosen to ignore parental consent and opinion. They've chosen to act apparently without ever considering how their actions might affect the people who use and rely on their services. Damn the consequences, they did what they wanted to do and ignored everything else.

So, yes. I'm a bit pissed with Google at the moment. I think they could and should do better. This is just not acceptable behavior.
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