Google/Blogger Unfairly Targets Customers

Corporate tech giants such as Google/Blogger like to emphasize how tough they are with would-be hackers, but when one digs deeper into Google/Blogger's strategies, one wonders if it is Google/Blogger who is having the last laugh yet. Google/Blogger will naturally swear that it is the winner.

Google's end-users who have yet to experience a service problem, which would necessitate a customer support, are likely to be under the impression that a company the size of Google is more than capable of having a reasonably working customer support center...that is, of course, until a product or service they are using breaks down! Shocking reality, however, settles in quickly once complainants are faced with the prospect of no person-to-person interface at Google, and that all Google/Blogger offers is a so-called "Help" forum, whereupon one is basically left to the mercy of "volunteers" or self-described "experts"; basically, a complainant will only get assisted if any one of said people so choose to respond to a plea for help. Otherwise, a complainant's concern can go unanswered, until it disappears from sight, as subsequent posts from other anguished complainants stack up.

A large component of complainants using Google's Blogger arm naturally comprise people who are either experiencing problems with account access or with the management of blogs, in terms of publishing, comments or visitor traffic. In many cases, these are also people whom Blogger would ideally like to wash off its hands, for they are seen as more of a liability to the attainment of profitability than an asset in service of profitability. So Blogger's way of dealing with complainants and to keep them at a distance, is to demonize them as would-be hackers or criminals. This is especially so, with respect to complainants who have account recovery problems.

One Google/Blogger defender, who basically amounts to being a spokesperson (whether or not it is one of an officially-sanctioned) notes:

Many complainants claim that Blogger is being unfair, in denying them access to their blogs. They overlook the fact that unwisely accepting publicly known or unverifiable details, as proof of blog ownership / identity, would be unfair to the millions of blog owners, who remember their login details - and are actively maintaining and publishing their blogs.

The reality is not a one-sided scenario as presented above. In some instances, complainants will have been warranted in their assessment that Blogger is being unfair, while in other situations, not so. Now of course, Blogger has to be prudent about the nature of identification-items offered for proof of ownership, but at the same time, Blogger sounds petty & whiny when it turns around and rejects offer of possible avenues of proof of ownership which Blogger may have overlooked in its *standardized* protocol for authentication of ownership, in case of a blog recovery effort.

Whining about would-be complainants who offer overlooked but prudently-effective avenues to aid BOTH the complainant and Blogger come to a resolution in blog recovery, WITHOUT compromising the security of blog ownership and thereby aiding would-be hackers, does not look good for Blogger. In such situations, it may even pay for Blogger to examine possible incorporation/consideration of such overlooked yet *prudent* avenues to the so-called "BACKDOOR access" in its drive to offer *wise* blog recovery tools, rather than moan about the complainant snatching Blogger-attention away from other would-be complainants. Such whining by Blogger insinuates that some would-be complainants are worthier than other would-be complainants, and that Blogger picks who falls into which camp at its discretion. The aforementioned Google/Blogger defender goes onto to add, for instance:

People who carefully maintain access to their accounts and blogs do so, based on the presumption that Blogger / Google will not unwisely give someone else access. These people appreciate the Blogger promise that our blogs will remain ours, forever - as long as we exercise common sense and courtesy.

It is a given that people who "carefully maintain access to their accounts and blogs" expect Blogger to not *unwisely* give access to someone other than the owner, but Blogger places itself as a supposed authority over who comprise such "well-maintained" people, overlooking the prospect that what Blogger deems "common sense and courtesy" may well be just as arbitrary and possibly subject to expedience as that of any other observer. The following may serve to show how this can be so:

The many blog owners, who maintain both front door and back door access - and actively maintain and publish their blogs - do not really care about the few who need "their" long dormant blogs recovered - or who want to delete "their" blogs, so they can move their activity to FaceBook or WordPress. They appreciate that Blogger will not give up login details, without observing appropriate caution.

This can be translated to say that Blogger does not care about the "few" who it deems inconvenient, such as the so-called "few" described above, possibly because--as hinted above--they are deemed "low value" customers due to their "insufficient" activity, which is seen as a distraction to the economy of scale issue, while the "few" who move their activity, may be doing so to join possible rivals/competitors of Google/Blogger, which is lucratively-advantageous to Google/Blogger's competitors. The following lines may be even more supportive to the just now-mentioned assessment than the last quote; here goes:

In our constant stream of demand for features and service, as owners and readers of Blogger blogs, we *need to remember that Blogger (and Google) are a business*. Various *principles of business will occasionally apply, in their policies*. These policies may *not, necessarily, be responsive to our immediate and personal needs* - though *they may support the overall needs of Blogger*, in general.

This may be even more revealing yet than the last citation:

Considering that Blogger / Google is not a non profit organisation, and needs to support customer activity, which group of customers should they support most readily?

As a matter of fact, the Google defender, who authored the above words, dedicates an entire blog entry to Blogger's priorities in a way that is fairly transparent about Google/Blogger's decisions being driven primarily by profit-making calculations. If an action/policy results in inflating Google/Blogger's bottom line or profit generation, then more time and effort is afforded to said action/policy. Those actions/policies which are deemed less economically rewarding are either simply marginalized to a noticeable degree or outright abandoned. Look no further, for instance, for revelation in the following lines, which were extracted from the aforementioned blog entry:

The reality is that Blogger wants to help their customers - when helping their customers provides them some business benefit.

Any business, that hopes to remain a business for any amount of time, has to understand the realities of Return On Investment, combined with Risk Management. One basic calculation of ROI is

(Sum of benefits) / (Sum of costs)

Both benefits and costs can be tangible (income, expense, etc) and non tangible (inconvenience to customers, increased / decreased reputation, etc). Projects which provide more ROI can be scheduled, with more urgency - and projects which provide less ROI, with less urgency.

The excuses used by Google/Blogger to limit services is to implicate each and every customer as a possible hacker or nefarious personality, and imply that there are more people out there who seek to do Google/Blogger damage than there are those whose actions are driven by authentic non-nefarious needs. By treating every customer as a possible criminal, Google/Blogger can masquerade the real intentions behind the machinations of its conduct/activities as genuine moves to secure customers rather than the desire to safeguard its bottom line. After all, customers are more inclined to tolerate Google/Blogger's policies if they thought said policies were genuinely designed to look out for the customer as opposed to opportunistic calculations to expand/protect Google/Blogger's profitability. The author of the quotations above goes onto acknowledge, fairly transparently:

ROI for most account recovery projects is very low.

Simply put, this means that account recovery will have a low priority for Google/Blogger, since the financial rewards have been deemed insufficient by Google. Because the financial rewards of account recovery are considered unsatisfactory to Google/Blogger, the company has to find a way to limit using its resources (time & money) on account recovery, which should otherwise be a necessary component of any reasonably-designed customer service apparatus. If Google/Blogger were to simply withdraw account recovery service altogether on the account of its inadequate economic payoff [to Google/Blogger itself], then such a move would be swiftly met with customer protest. So to avoid critical mass customer protest, Google/Blogger has adopted a tactful but proven strategy: use customer fear of insecurity against them to enact its would-be unpopular policies.

Governments have infamously but effectively adopted similar policies in both outright-totalitarian regimes and partially-totalitarian plutocracies, whereby anti-proletariat policies are paraded as actions designed to protect the general citizenry from harm. On the face of it, proposing/announcing anti-proletariat policies is insufficient; something negatively-drastic or dramatic has to happen in order to successful sell such policies, and there is no better/simpler way to do that than whip up a hysteria of fear. Tell the general mass that there are more people out to do them harm than there are those with whom they have common and relatable experiences. In other words, instill the sense that viscous predators outnumber relatable compatriots. In this way, every citizenry can be treated as possible offenders/criminals without provoking mass protest. Likewise, Google/Blogger treats every customer as a potential hacker, in order to justify its anti-proletariat policies and insincere "customer service" apparatus.

If each customer is individually treated as a possible hacker, then Google can deny them due service on the grounds of 'inadequate proof' of ownership of the access-blocked account(s), including the outright abandoning of an operating customer service center which is all-manned by Google employee and constitutes a skilled-workforce. As it is, Google/Blogger complainant customers can't access a Google call center for help, because it is all but non-existent, and instead, are merely directed to "Help forums" where the complainants can be pacified or stalled from taking punitive action via run around by "volunteers" and self-professed "experts", with possibly few actual Google "experts" in their midst. In these forums, complainants may even be outright ignored, with possibly nowhere else to turn to, since there is no actual person-to-person customer-Google interface system in place, outside of possibly walking into a regional or local Google office, where the complainant is likely to be given a run-around or simply referred to some other vaguely-affiliated outfit or partner concern.

Google/Blogger of course, justifies the lack of person-to-person Google interface by taking issue with sheer volume of potential complainants. Google whines about there being an indeterminate astronomical amount of would-be complainants that it would have to cater to, which would supposedly overwhelm Google/Blogger. Yet in a twist, it is the same Google/Blogger that justifies its customer-unfriendly account recovery service on grounds of a low volume of would-be complainants, which is deemed to have a low ROI value! One need only visit Google's Blogger Help forum, for instance, to see that there is no shortage of account recovery complainants, and far from a volume that is considered low enough to toss aside as "marginal" or to laugh about. This volume is further downplayed by way of treating the bulk of complainants as criminals or would-be hackers, who are not deserving of attention or respectful service.

The Google/Blogger spokesperson (officially or not) writes:

Like any legal policy, "terms are subject to change", without warning. And, they are subject to interpretation, by Blogger Policy Enforcement, and by Google Legal. If you repeatedly test the limits, expect to be treated appropriately.

This means that Google/Blogger can set forth "Terms of Service" at its own discretion, which can not only be withdrawn without prior warning, but also subject to Google's own interpretation. Google/Blogger can manipulate the terms to mean whatever Google/Blogger sees fit, as possibly inspired by the agenda at hand. Of course, Google is not unique in this respect, given how it has virtually become a corporate standard to set forward "Terms of Service" which are designed to be flexible with regards to the corporation that is setting them, but not so much, with respect to general end-users.

Corporations will naturally claim that these "Terms of Service" are designed with good intentions to protect customers from abuse, but more often than not, they are designed to legally and financially protect the corporations themselves, with customer welfare being secondary to these. They are also designed to disarm or censor customers where and when possible or expedient, and whether or not the justification thereof is convincingly impartial. The customer is susceptible to abuse by the expedient application of "Terms of Service", when as noted, every customer is presumed to be nefarious, a criminal, offender or hacker until otherwise proven. "Terms of Service" can be implemented to disarm customers from protesting anti-proletariat but corporate-friendly policies.

The same defender thus far quoted throughout this entry, speaks of an account recovery mechanism which Google/Blogger so-calls "2-Step Verification", and which doubtlessly draws from the aforementioned "Terms of Service" to justify its austerity character:

If you use Google Two-Step Verification, you will have a better chance of being able to recover Blogger account access, if you forget the account name or password.

Alternately, use of 2-Step Verification may prevent account hijackings and blog theft, when you must use a computer that's not yours, or when you travel - as long as you carry your authentication device / tokens with you.

As an alternative or complement to 2-Step Verification, Blogger recognises us using demographic details. People who consistently use the same browser, on the same computer, in the same location, and from the same Internet service, are easily recognised, are trusted more - and are less likely to receive secondary challenges.

Once again, Google/Blogger expediently uses the matter of customer protection/security to sell and mask the gratuitously-autocratic character of Google's account recovery mechanism. Google/Blogger's so-called 2-Step Verification not only has the tendency of punishing countless customers who had a misfortune of forgetting their username or password, but also punishing customers who have no trouble remembering both the account name or password, while not actually eradicating hackers. This effect is no accident; it's by design. Google, on a whim, can target any of its customers through the so-called 2-Step Verification or related account recovery mechanism with or without any customer provocation.

Through the so-called 2-Step Verification and the like, Google/Blogger can sift out customers it deems "irregular" posters, because chances are those are the people who are likely to forget either the account name or password or likely to have created their accounts with email addresses that have been deactivated. In the case of those who forget their account name or password, it's simple: Just request an "Admin" email address (aka username) registered with the affected or access-blocked account; the odds are that the person won't remember the email address, thereby providing Google/Blogger with a justification to shutdown the access-denied customer. Of course, it's not perfect; some would-be "irregular" users may slip through, if they happen to remember their account name.

Similarly, customers who are "irregular" users may be targeted even if they accurately supply the two main credentials required for logging into an account, namely the username and password! How is this done? Well, the account in question will be identified, and the user will be told that their "device is not recognized", for instance. Here is the catch: it would not matter if Google is making a false accusation about a "device not being recognized", since Google/Blogger will expediently avoid providing a real justification outside of the unsubstantiated simple accusation. Given that the customer will have passed the login test with flying colors, where the username and the password are concerned, Google can place its bet on a username that has a good chance of being out of service or deactivated by the email provider, usually on the purported grounds of "insufficient usage".

The odds of many users setting up auxiliary email addresses mainly to start up various accounts, with various applications, is high enough to increase the odds of exposure of one account or another to deactivation due to "insufficient usage". If it so happens that the account Google/Blogger is targeting was created using an email address that is no longer active, then Google/Blogger's bet would have paid off;  it can proceed to block the targeted account, since Google/Blogger will then insist on sending a "verification code" to the inaccessible or deactivated account, even as it asks for a workable so-called "recovery email address", which Google/Blogger can reject on a whim, since Google/Blogger will likely do so without any explanation whatsoever to the targeted customer. The idea here, is that Google/Blogger can avoid giving the targeted customer a logical reason on the grounds of a supposed need for "secrecy", so as to not tip-off would-be hackers. So, the victimized customer will expediently be kept in the dark about a justification, forever being perplexed about why his/her account had been targeted for Google/Blogger's blocking!

By targeting "irregular" users one way or another, Google can rid itself of those it deems "undesirable distractions" in its pursuit of corporate sponsors, and make some serious money. Rather than directly deactivate the accounts of "irregular" users without notice as is done by say, some email providers like Microsoft, Google/Blogger adopts more underhanded tactics, like say, its so-called 2-Step Verification. Google/Blogger does this as a work around its professed policy of allowing users to keep their "free" accounts for as long as they see fit, PROVIDED that they do not violate any of Google/Blogger's "Terms of Service".

It is noted above by the quoted defender, that Google/Blogger "recognises us [the user] using demographic details. People who consistently use the same browser, on the same computer, in the same location, and from the same Internet service, are easily recognised, are trusted more - and are less likely to receive secondary challenges." Yet, these very people have been targeted with such ploys, as noted several passages ago, about the "device not being recognized"! When asked why Google would fail to "recognize the device" of users who "use the same browser, on the same computer, in the same location, and from the same Internet service", the answer expediently provided, is that Google uses what they refer to as "geolocation" and "country code aliases". Never mind the contradiction just noted, about Google's supposed proficiency in location recognition. This sort of sloppiness should serve as a cautionary note to Blogger, that its ambition to possibly replace the somewhat dysfunctional 2-Step Verification with a geolocation-utilizing mechanism, is a recipe for disaster.

The quoted Google/Blogger defender writes:

Too many would be blog owners (blog thieves?) complain how unhelpful Google/Blogger is - and even, that Google/Blogger is fraudulently denying them access to their Blogger account, and their blogs.

None of the above-mentioned is mere theoretical assessment; the analysis draws from personal experience: Yours truly is fairly convinced that if Google/Blogger's conduct is not indicative of sheer incompetence, then it must be by nefarious self-serving design. Either way, Google/Blogger does not come across as being credible!

Blogger published the unfounded judgement that it supposedly "did not recognize the device" operated by the current author; this was right after its so-called 2-Step Verification had been passed with flying colors. As has become customary, Google/Blogger showed ABSOLUTELY NO indication of credibility in its wild assessment; nonetheless yours truly obliged, and offered every tangible authentication-credential requested!

Google/Blogger's claim that "this device isn't recognized. For your security, Google wants to make sure it's really you" is bunkum, since this accusation was being made against a device which happened be the VERY SAME one used to manage & build up the present author's TWO personal "Blogspot" blogs for more or less their entire existence, from the SAME LOCATION, using the SAME INTERNET SERVICE--basically, the very sort of circumstance that Google/Blogger claims to be quite adept at recognizing [e.g. shown several quotes ago]. As a matter of fact, the particular blog that Google/Blogger blocked access had ENTIRELY been built up with the very SAME DEVICE since its creation, some 8 years ago, at the time of this writing!

Despite the FACT that the present author's TWO personal "Blogspot" blogs literally share/shared the very SAME DEVICE for their maintenance and management, from the SAME LOCATION, using the SAME BROWSER and the SAME INTERNET service, somehow Google STILL managed to FAIL at "recognizing the device" with respect to ONLY ONE of the two personal blogs! The DEVICE in question is a HOME-BASED Windows desktop!

Question of the day: Rhetorically speaking, how CREDIBLE is it for Google/Blogger to recognize the SAME DEVICE in one instance but NOT in another, in light of the SAME LOCATION and the SAME INTERNET service?

As noted earlier, in situations such this, whereby Google targets the end-user who supplies all the required login-credentials, Google places its bet on a chance-occurrence of something like a DEACTIVATED EMAIL address, given that it could be argued that the access-blocked blog was used for publication relatively "infrequently". By Google/Blogger's standards, anything short of a monthly or daily publication is deemed "infrequent"! It should be re-emphasized that all requested authentication-credentials were supplied IN DEED, except for Google/Blogger's unreasonable insistence on the need for a verification-code be sent to the DEACTIVATED email address--the very email address which was used to set up the access-blocked blog.

It is no mere coincidence, that of the TWO personally owned blogs, Google/Blogger targeted the blog whose log shows a relatively lower publishing activity! Other authentication-items supplied upon request by Google/Blogger included a recovery mobile phone number, the email address designated as the username for the access-blocked blog--aka the "Admin email address", and a recovery email address(es). Diagnosis of this situation should bring any well-thinking person to the inescapable conclusion that Google/Blogger's action is driven by two possibilities: Either Google/Blogger is utterly INCOMPETENT, OR it is motivated by DECEPTIVE designs; no way around the two possibilities.

Another matter seems to have cropped up in Google/Blogger's service: One of the two aforementioned blogs, which happened to be created in January 2008 with an 'Admin' email address (its principal username) provided by Microsoft's then existing hotmail service, now seems to have undergone a setting change. The hotmail email address in question, with which the blog was created, seems to have been replaced with a Google provided Gmail email address that was also set up in 2008, but well into 3 months AFTER the blog was created!

How is it that a blog which was created in January 2008, now has an "Admin" email address that was set up in March 2008? For those who might not understand the significance of this, it should be noted that "Admin" email addresses cannot be changed once they have been used to set up the blogger-blog account!

The only conceivable scenario under which the "Admin" email address could be changed from a hotmail address to a Gmail address, is if Google/Blogger intervened and made it possible. If such an intervention had occurred, and existing evidence indicates that such intervention had taken place, then it had occurred without either the consent of or warning to the blog owner! It's likely that if such a matter were brought to Google/Blogger's attention, then Google/Blogger would likely place the blame on a would-be hacker, if not the blog owner him/herself, which would then doubtlessly be used as further justification for using the "2-Step Verification" to target & sift out "irregular" blog publishers!

Note: It's possible that when one decides to open up a Gmail account, they are compelled to open up a "Google account" as well; the Gmail registration is not offered absent of a "Google account" to go along with it. Opening a "Google account" without Gmail seems to be possible, but not the other way around. Once forced to open up a "Google account", simply to set up a Gmail account, it appears that Google also forces the signing-up candidate to "upgrade" the non-Gmail email address being used to sign-up in the first place, assuming that one was offered!

The so-called "upgrade" stipulates that the non-Gmail email address will be subsequently turned into an "alternative" email address, while the newly acquired G-mail address will takeover the administrative role/significance in any other Google-affiliated account, like say, a Blogger-blog, which the signing-up candidate intends to use the Gmail address in conjunction with! It does not matter, if the said candidate simply wanted to use the Gmail address as an "alternative/recovery" email address for a different Google account, like a blog! This complication is likely what inflicted the present author's accessible blog.

The only way one can prevent a different/separate Google account of theirs from being stripped off its non-Gmail (like say, a preexisting hotmail email address) Admin email address, is if one doesn't attach the Gmail account to that other account in any shape or form, including offering a non-Gmail email address--already in use with a different Google account--in a bid to simply sign up for Gmail ! It sounds complicated; so, caution is required when one attempts to list a Gmail email address on a different Google-affiliated account!

Hackers are here to stay, likely for as long as humans exist; the cover that Google/Blogger repeatedly uses for certain dubious applications of its "2-Step Verification" and so forth, is its alleged intent on bringing hacking down to zero. These verification methods are unlikely to bring hacking down to zero; Google/Blogger must know this, and has set its sight beyond would-be hackers!

It may well be worth the trouble for Blogger's blog owners to spare a few minutes of their time to go over their settings, and make sure they are on top of everything that's present therein; make sure they record the specific 'Admin' (username) email address in place [an effective "Admin" email address is one that is unlikely to be deactivated in the future], which is not replaceable by the blog owners themselves, make sure they jot down the specifics of the ''recovery" or "backdoor" email address(es), and/or any "recovery" phone numbers they may have provided when setting up the blog. If owners have these in their possession, then not only can they determine if their accounts had been interfered with, but also that little can go wrong, should they suddenly be targeted by Google/Blogger for ownership authentication!

*Subject to modification or revision, should new information come to light.

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