Gmail Error

Gmail is at it yet again and this time they are performing magic tricks that many of us have never seen first-hand…they are making your email messages disappear before your very eyes! Hey, I never said it was a positive magic trick, now did I?

TechCrunch reported on this happening earlier today and received this response from Google regarding the situation:

Regretfully, a small number of our users — around 60 — lost some or all of their email received prior to December 18th. Once we found out about this issue, we worked day and night to confirm that only a few accounts were affected and to do whatever we could to restore as much of the users’ accounts as we could. We’ve also reached out to the people who were affected to apologize and to work with them to restore the email from any personal backup they might have.

We know how important Gmail is to our users — we use it ourselves for our corporate email. We have extensive safeguards in place to protect email stored with Gmail and we are confident that this is a small and isolated incident.

What’s really interesting to read is in the Google Group where this is all going on. Here are three quotes from one particular user (I put key points in bold):

The point you helpful souls are missing is that we lost ALL our messages – ALL of them, get it?  I lost over a thousand – from every single folder, including SPAM (not that I care). I’m getting bored with links to the gmail self-help pages – what I want are solid data.  Problem determination and problem source identification.  Here are the facts as I have them so far:

 (1) On or about 12/17-12/18 a number of gmail users (so far at least five, by my count) lost the entire contents of their accounts, including all messages in their inboxes, their sent messages, their archives, their spam, and even thir contacts and signatures.

(2) More than one of us use Firefox2 as our browser

(3) I personally had left a browser window open to my gmail account over the time this occurred.  (Yes, it was secure, no one else had access to the system)

(4) I have a screen cap of over 100 instances of Firefox complaining that a script was running slowly on the inbox.  This was not a script that I started intentionally.

We are trying to identify and correct a potentially pervasive problem here – one that might be a bug in gmail, or a bug in Firefox, or a bug in how the browser interacts with gmail.

Later on he continues:

Now we have perhaps seven identifiable victims in the same time period. At least three using Firefox, at least one uses IE.  Also one user reports they have a “pwn3d” message –, I hope you saved that one! 

 Somehow we have to get Google’s attention or a lot more users could be at risk.

And then a few days later there is some restoration:

Status update: some email has been restored – from 12/10 through 12/17 – inbox and spam, but not sent mail.  Also got a note that Firefox is out – fixes a couple remote exploit bugs.  I wonder, is this the one?  Doesn’t explain why non-Firefox users saw lost email.  And what of our accounts, can they ever be secured again?

So there you have it, I would say that those three quotes summarize the story pretty well and show that only one-week worth of email was restored. The most interesting point that I wanted to make is that this might be related to Firefox so it is highly recommended that you upgrade to Firefox (if you use Firefox) to help ensure that this doesn’t happen to you.

I would be absolutely devastated if this happened to me because there are a lot of important messages in my Gmail Inbox, which leads me to another point. These online email services should offer some way to backup your email messages in case something catastrophic like this happens. It should be as simple as pushing a button and downloading a compressed file, but the peace-of-mind that it would give users would be priceless. This isn’t the first Google Group that I have seen started about this topic, either, which means something needs to happen to make me feel comfortable keeping my messages on their servers.

Anyone else feeling a little nervous when they visit their Gmail account now? After reading this I pulled up Gmail with my fingers crossed in hopes that my messages were still there…looks like I am okay, for now.