The day I found out how dependent I got on Google

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road closed signage

My heart skipped a beat or two when I read: “Resetting your phone to your factory settings….” and my brain started racing to figure out exactly what this meant..

Looking around, i saw the beautiful beach around me and thought of the irony of how worried I was about technology there, in a place where I shouldn’t even think about tech at all. However, I was in the middle of my holidays, in Kerala state (India) and with a train to catch in 6 hours or so. All my travel arrangements were in my phone and without those I wouldn’t be able to reach my next destination.

With an empty phone on my hands – I wasn’t even able to connect my SIM card without accessing my Gmail account. Yet, for security purposes, I have strong passwords all around – the kind of passwords that, for the life of me, I can’t memorize. No worries – I thought – I do have them all in a password management software and that password I do know by heart. So all is good right? Not quite though: to install the app I needed to get past the Google set up process. After using an old Google account for that I installed the app and entered my password with relief, only to see this message “we don’t recognise this device so we sent an email to your main email address – check your inbox to authorise this”. Back to zero!

I was 5 days away from my laptop and no way to access this so I started the Google recovery process with all alternative recovery options I could access – not many I might add. Once you have Two Step Recovery active, you need to either have the Google Authenticator installed (which I had on the phone *before* the reset) or you need to have the recovery codes – which I choose not to travel with (might be worth reconsidering this though). After trying every other recovery option I got the message “We’ll review this request and will get back to you in 3-5 business days”. 3-5 business days meant almost all my holidays would go by without access to any booking details, etc.. Doomed – I tell you!

Luckily in India most OTP processes work with the mobile phone only – so the main booking (trains, etc..) I was still able to access and some others I had printed (yay for backup options, nay for the environment) or backed up to a shared drive so not all was lost.
This got me thinking heavily on how a single company actually holds so much of my data and controls my life. I mean – I did got access 3 business days later (yay) and now, back at home, it all seems ok. Yet – this doesn’t seem right. What would happen if this main company stopped working or decided to terminate my account for some reason – how much of my work, hobbies, studies would be lost ?

On a brighter note though – it was good to fully disconnect without means to check stuff (social media, work stuff, personal stuff) and it’s definitely still possible to go on living and enjoying . It was also good to see how secure my accounts seem to be – seeing as even I couldn’t access them without waiting for several days.

I can only think, however, how much of my projects, connections, … , would have to be reset…

Have you thought, lately, how much of your life is held by others and how much control they have over it?

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