A Tuesday morning meeting can turn into a Tuesday morning nightmare in about three seconds, flat. It started with an innocent mistake – Bob wanted to join a video conference that our Lead Developer, Lami, and I were in. Before he could join, Bob was prompted to activate his Google+ account.
Simple enough… just fill out a few fields that Google most likely already knows about you (Google is basically Skynet, right?) and you’re in. Now, whether it was an oversight or Bob trying to ‘stick it to the man’, we may never know, but his birthday was entered incorrectly. The information he entered told Google that he was younger than 13, their age requirement for the United States. When he submitted, he was immediately slapped with a warning that he ‘did not meet the age requirement and that his account had been disabled’. What? Ok, let’s just clear this little mishap…
Google gives you a few ways to re-activate your account:
1) Pay them a small fee with a personal credit card. Google wants 30 cents to reactivate your account. Just kidding, they really want to see that you have a credit card which would mean you are at least 18, which is much older than 13. It really does cost 30 cents, though.
2) Send them a fax with your Photo ID. They will prompt you to send a fax with a copy of your photo ID to prove you can see Harry Potter movies without the chaperoning of a parent or guardian.
3) Send them an email with your Photo ID. You can also send an email with an image of your photo ID to prove you are no longer in middle school.
If you are in our situation, where access to email is life-and-death, this is troublesome. Options 2 and 3 take at least 2 days (DAYS!) to get a response. Option 1 requires you to login to your account, which is, of course, completely locked out. We couldn’t even access it from our administrative account!
After two hours of tinkering (and finger-crossing), we finally discovered that you must first attempt to access the disabled account, choose the credit card recovery method, then log in through a different Google account and finally pay with the your personal credit card.
All of this seems like a bit much for a field that any sub-13 year old could easily lie on to circumvent the age restrictions. Needless to say, it was an alarming reminder of how much our lives our controlled by the massive beast that is Google, whether we like to admit it or not.