GMail Disaster, Google confirmed the Mass Email Deletions. Even backups are gone?

by Hari K. Gottipati

Earlier I wrote about the GMail problems. But the latest issue is more than just problem, its a GMail disaster. As per TechCrunch, number of users started complaining that all of their GMail emails and contacts were auto deleted. They found lot of such complaints on Google groups including this:
Found my account clean..nothing in Inbox, contacts ,sent mail..How can all these information residing in different folders disappear? ..How to write to gmail help team to restore the it possible?..Where to report this abuse?.Any help ..Welcome..Thanks in advance ps101

Even Google confirmed this via email to TechCrunch.
Hi there TechCrunch folks,

We saw your post today about Gmail and wanted to let you know what was going on.

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.


Google's official policy is that once emails are deleted, they are gone forever

I understand that once the email is deleted, its gone forever. But in case of disasters like this, can't they restore the emails from last backup(except the mails since last backup)? Why they are asking the affected users to restore from the personal backup?(Unless they lost the backup too!. Its even worse!!) I knew lot of people who are using GMail as backup storage rather than as a email, even not how come we have a personal back up of the personal emails(of the size 2GB and counting)? After reading the email from Google representative, I suspect whether Google has any backup plans for GMail or not? -:)

What do you say? Don't say that "Dude, its still in beta!". I am (re)tired of "GMail Beta".

Note: Are you using GMail? If yes, please have personal backup of your emails on a daily basis. Who knows one day you may receive a email from Google asking you to restore the emails from your personal backup. -:)


2006-12-28 22:16:48
Actually, I do keep a backup of my emails, if you call it that. I typically download to pop and read them there, where they are categorized. I also have the same e-mails on GMail organized into folders.
2006-12-29 03:19:12
I think using the term disaster is a bit over the top. 60 users out of how many ?

BTW, call me paranoid (or, whats that other p word ? professional ??), but what do you expect relying on data on a server outside your control ?
2006-12-29 05:34:24
It's huge, it's free ... stop whining
Hari K Gottipati
2006-12-29 11:15:31
It's huge, it's free ... stop whining

Agreed, its huge and its free. But if you are one of those 60 people, will you feel the same or will you complain? It depends on how you are using the GMail. If you are using it for junk mails, you may say "Whats the big deal!". But what if you have some important emails?

2006-12-29 11:33:02
I'd do monthly GMail backups if there was a way to.

As it is, no way in hell I'm keeping POP backups. I never open desktop email programs anymore.

David Megginson
2006-12-29 12:59:00
If you follow up the more recent comments in the TechCrunch article you link to, it looks like the problem may have been a security bug in FireFox 2.0 (fixed in that enabled a cross-site scripting attack through e-mail messages, rather than a bug in Gmail itself.
Hari K Gottipati
2006-12-29 13:13:01
I think using the term disaster is a bit over the top. 60 users out of how many ?

Its not the question of how many users, its the question of the GMail reliability. 60 users out of million doesn't gurantee that it wont happen again and it doesn't gurantee that it only affetcs 60 people next time. And if you are one of those 60 people and if you have important mails, I wonder whats your response will be?

Hari K Gottipati
2006-12-29 13:22:04
@David Megginson,
problem may have been a security bug in FireFox 2.0 (fixed in that enabled a cross-site scripting attack through e-mail messages

It clearly says that GMail is vulnerable to cross-site scripting attacks. Even if Firefox has a security bug which enables XSS attacks, shouldn't GMail block those XSS attacks? So there is a bug in GMail which opened a door to XSS attacks. If there is no problem from GMail side, Google would have clearly mentioned that. But they didn't. They didn't even explain what exactly caused the problem. Which clearly indicates..... well you know -:)

2006-12-30 05:12:33
It means smart people don't keep important information on other people's servers. If anyone needs a consultant to tell them that, they are possibly not the right people to made the decision.
2006-12-30 09:22:43
I've used GMail for quite some time now and am very happy with it. But I do download email locally using Pop and Outlook -- not that I would ever read the email in Outlook, the interface is very weak compared with GMail, but it's good to have a local backup. Who knows, the business model of GMail might change in the future (5 years from now? 10 years?), and then I don't want to have all my eggs in one single basket...
Joshua Drake
2006-12-30 13:23:19
Uhmmm, not only is it Beta. It is free. You have *zero*, I repeat *zero* room for whining, complaining, grunting or groaning if the service is free.

If you want accountability, pay for it. I find it absolutely amazing that people will use something like gmail or yahoo mail for mail that they think is important on *any* level.

2006-12-31 00:23:45
you ask me, i am one of those 60 people. i have emails to be proof in court, now they all gone, i am facing a lose case now,
2007-01-03 08:06:04
well, it might be anoying but:
1- it is still a beta version....
2- i never understood why ppl would keep all (and i mean ALL) the e-mails
3- learn how to use POP or IMAP and download the e-mails to your personal pc, and make a backup of the real important ones....

I really like gmail, although my ISP also provides for 1Gb e-mail acount, i use gmail because i never know if i'll change my ISP. Thanks to gmail (if they dont close down... :)) i can change ISP or whatever and allways keep the same e-mail.

if it was my acount to have been deleted, i would say " oh crap....and then after maybe 2 minutes trying to recover it i'd move on :). If it's THAT important then you'd beter have your own failsafe system..., as someone said.

2007-01-04 14:18:43
I'm not sure why anyone has a right to complain. Google offers a large mail solution, which has proved to be less faulty than a standard office e-mail solution. Shit happens. Do you want to be in charge of backing up hundreds of terabytes of "my precious grandchild" e-mails?

If you're using a publicly free and assessable solution for your crucial e-mails, you need to buy some sand to pound for the next time something happens.

Leon Mergen
2007-01-04 17:28:02
"Do you want to be in charge of backing up hundreds of terabytes of "my precious grandchild" e-mails?"

As soon as you earn money from such a service (which they do), and are in the position to back up hundreds of terabytes of data, this means they also earn a *lot* of money from such a service. If you provide such a service, even from a commercial standpoint, it would make sense to make you take care of the all aspects of the data integrity.

Simply put, they should have had backups. There's no excuse for not having those. Period.

2007-01-04 18:28:03
S/W is not 1+1=2, its takes money, people and a profitibility model to build up something like GMAIL. Suck it up!!
2007-01-04 18:53:01
Gmail undoubtedly stores email on their GFS network filesystem. That explains why there is no backup: files are already stored redundantly. That 'gone forever' effect may also be a 'feature' of the filesystem, but is to your benefit--as it probably exists because of the early privacy concerns around Gmail's launch.
Adam Steenwyk
2007-01-04 18:58:21
Regretfully, a small number of our users -- around 60 -- lost some or all of their email received prior to December 18th.

Hmm, 60 users. I would imagine that is less than 1/100th of a percent of the total gmail user population. Nevertheless, the folks at Google obviously worked quite hare to try and fix it for them.

I want to see Yahoo, MSN, or anyone else take such care of their users who aren't even PAYING for access to their email.

This is HARDLY a problem. Go nit pick somewhere where it matters, like Vista being horribly unstable.

2007-01-04 21:22:26
Comment about gmail being free, I don't think it is, i think we pay a price by having google have a lot of private info about us.

Aside that, 60 is really nothing compared to the millions of accounts gmail has.

Frankly even with a paid service it could happen. And even then i don't think you can make them liable (i'm sure the TOS is tight)

2007-01-04 21:34:54
I would love to have a local backup of my email. But gmail's POP simply does not work properly or consistently. It doesn't work with archived email, for example.

Google really needs to release a backup tool for gmail. Also, since gmail doesn't use a folder paradigm, they should provide a way to backup by label.

Hari K Gottipati
2007-01-04 21:38:21
My complaint is, why they are unable to restore from the back ups? 60 is nothing out of millions accounts. Google would have explained what really happened and why they couldn't restore from back ups.
Hari K Gottipati
2007-01-04 21:45:44
@Who responded that its free and we shouldn't complaint,
I completely disagree. Even though it is free, Google is making the money out of it and hence its a commercial product. So they should take care of the data and they should have proper back up plans. With the problems like this keeps happening, people will loose faith in GMail, which results in loosing their user base.
2007-01-04 22:32:21
//But in case of disasters like this, can't they restore the emails from last backup(except the mails since last backup)?

Two years before everyone complained about Gmails deletion policy in their TOS / Privacy policy.... It stated that emails might be present on their servers for some time even after deletion. This was unacceptable at that time. (Well for me its still unacceptable).

I Guess Gmail has redundant storage but incase of manual delete it just replicates across. I dont expect Google to back up email as it is an enormous Privacy lapse.

2007-01-04 22:37:12
I agree that it would suck to be among those 60 folks. I also agree that it is a pity that Google were unable to foresee that an XSS attack could be mounted -- that may have resulted in the above loss. But let's be a little more logical here, Hari: you expect Gmail to be completely confidential -- if you deleted something you want it to really be gone, not to show up in some searches or be restored from a back up under a subpoena. At the same time you want the ability to restore data from the back up, in case your mails/contacts were wiped out by an "intruder" who used pretty much that same "delete" button?
2007-01-04 22:54:47
Free? Monetarily perhaps, but their making a killing in ads on all of the millions of users they have.
Your eyeballs are the payment.
2007-01-04 23:39:20
Backups? Are you kidding me? Did you actually mean to imply that Google should be keeping backups of their mail storage? At nearly 3GB times millions of users, you are talking a staggering and almost unimaginable amount of data. There is simply no way that you can make backups of that much data. At least, not in the "tape drive" or "incremental backup server" sense.

Although I can't prove it, I'd wager anything that Google's data storage systems (web and email) have absolutely no backup systems in place. It's just infeasible on a number of levels. To compensate, they design their systems with high availability in mind. Clustering, distributed storage, and so on. This case proves that the system isn't entirely foolproof, but I for one am impressed that even in a "disaster" like this, only 60 people lost their mail.

2007-01-05 00:11:48
What's up with all of you saying "why don't they have backups"? I know someone on the team, and he said they definitely *do* keep backups. What happened in this case is that the accounts were wiped, and then backed up, and the new (smaller) backup replaced the older one. I don't know the full details, but I bet there are a lot more affected than just 60 - but for most of them, there was still a good backup around.

The fact is, whether you go with Yahoo, Hotmail, gmail, or just store stuff on your local drive, there's always some chance that something will go wrong. I've had 4 hard drives go bad on me, and I've never had any online mail go bad - except for when I went on my honeymoon, and after 4 and a half weeks, Yahoo and Hotmail deleted everything because I was still using the free version of their software. D'oh.

BTW, Try Googling for "Hotmail incinerates customer files"

2007-01-05 02:29:52
Using POP3 as a backup is not the only option available. I just created account on the other webmail provider (who offers 1GB space), and setup filter to forward copy of all incoming emails to that address. That way, I have my emails on two separate providers. I am sorry for those people who lost their valuable emails, but I still don't understand how can anyone store their important data on just only place...
2007-01-05 07:43:00
Using the phrase "I wonder what you would say if it happened to you?" is bogus, it didn't happen to said person, so all such speculation is pointless. It is impossible to predict how someone will react to a certain event, i.e. the dissappearing inkwell effect.
2007-01-05 08:16:30

If you have any critical data.... and I mean anythinng that you really need, ie emails for a court case.... back them up, multiple times in different places. If you save something so critical in only one place and that crashes, you deserve to lose, for being so silly enough to leave it in one place.

The best approach is to take a buddhist view on life, that whatever happens, is truly down to the kharma of the universe. Meanwhile I have lost years of music twice (once it was stolen, once I lost it from a HDD that went kaput.) Now for me, music is one of the most important thinkgs in the world, but I didn't complain. I didn't whine to the police. I don't think I even used the warranty on the HDD, because it served me right, for leaving it in one place. I learned my lesson after two incidents , and now have a version of my collection on at least two HDD's at all times. :)

2007-01-05 09:43:38
People said :
"It's huge, it's free ... stop whining"
"I want to see Yahoo, MSN, or anyone else take such care of their users who aren't even PAYING for access to their email."
It sounds like google was offering a gift to the world and everyone should be mercyfull for it... :-()
At first, Gmail is not free, as yahoo, msn : they are ad supported.
Secondly : Google takes the right to watch any data collected on your mailbox (messages, contacts...) in order to ameliorate their adsense system. I suppose that's why they keep gmail in beta version...
I like very much gmail, but don't confuse them with saint people...
2007-01-06 00:47:36
first people complain that Google is a privacy time bomb

and when they assure that once deleted its deleted forever, people have problem with that too

2007-01-12 18:46:41
today yahoo users suffered the same fate. emails wipped out clean cant send cant receive.
2007-01-30 23:13:07
Hi, I have lost allcontacts from contact list in gmail. Can you help me on how I can restore it back?
2007-02-13 09:20:17
Its called a false flag event. No way all these companies screw up this big, in the exact same way simultaneously. Its how ultra rich international corporations & organizations control the masses. Next they'll say they need more control over the net to make sure this never happens again. Then bye bye Net Neutrality. The plans for the so called Internet 2 have been on the table for years, but they know the people won't accept a corporately controlled, fee-based internet unless scared into mindless submission...
2007-03-02 12:02:13
From working in a corporate environment in several places, the legal department frequently recommends a permanent deletion policy - i.e. this very thing, that if the email is deleted, it's gone for good. The reason being, if it can be gotten back, it can be subpeaoned (bad spelling I know). If it can't be gotten back, then the court can't force it. Is it possible that this is just following exactly that kind of policy, on purpose?
2007-05-09 07:38:46 e-mail is a spam magnet and most of the spam I receive isn't even addressed to me; my last e-mail was addressed to someone at Why did I get it? I dont have a yahoo e-mail account. My complaints for the last 2 weeks have only been answered by form messages saying they will get back to me shortly.
2007-05-20 21:48:01
I was one of those 'around 60 users' that lost everything in their gmail account on December 2, 2006.

And Google did 'fess up. What they did not say was that this had happened every single month for 14 months PRIOR to that as well.

I did a LOT of research for about 4 months because I wanted to and I found mutltiple incidents for EVERY MONTH of those previous 14 months and then I just quit because I got bored of the whole thing.

The main point is this:

Gmail is a BETA version. A beta version is the first version released . . . for the purpose of evaluation or real-world . . . testing. It is still in the "TESTING" phase.

The real question boils down to: WHY? after FOUR (4) years is the software product STILL in the testing phase? Because Google does not have confidence or faith in the product as it stands. Simple as that.

And if Google does not have confidence in the product after 4 years, then why should anyone else?

2007-06-04 13:10:12
Recently, my yahoo email address gone all of a suddent while I was replying an email. It started asking me to retype password, and when I did, surprisingly it said "illegal password", then I did a few times, it still said that. Then I went thru the yahoo email password recover process, and it asked me if my credit card registered, but when I click no since it was a free yahoo email address I got years ago when there was no such request, yahoo came back a page saying, without credit card number, there is no way yahoo can recover the account. They I sent a test email to my yahoo email account, and surprised to find out Yahoo bounced back the email, saying, there is NO such email account exisit!!!

What should I do ?

2007-06-19 00:39:49

I had a complete e-mail AND blog wipe by Google a few days ago. Quite a shock as I was relying on them. My own mistake, I suppose.

2007-07-01 20:56:18
All my emails (5000) all of a sudden automatically went to Trash!! I moved them back to Inbox but many of my recent emails are gone. My Draft folder is also wiped out. I'm so frustrated and shocked that Google's product would act up this bad.
2007-07-04 15:58:22
Your emails probably got deleted because gmail was paid off by whoever is against you in court
2007-07-09 19:52:41
I lost all my emails today from my gmail mail box. contact, sent items, inbox, google display picture, personal display name, contacts from my Google Talk. Like everything. its more like everything is reset.
what do i do now. any help plz...
2007-07-24 22:00:16
Hey Dude!!!!!!!!!

it is ha-full. where is your desastered recovery center. are you provoide any services to recover of deleted mails?

comapre to other mails services are good except mail recovering...

i hope you people understand public littereations.

are you know how many peoples knowes recovering and save data this kind of things.

we are technical persons we know very well .. how many non-technical peoples using gamail account i don't need to explain you...

kindley think the problem from two ends.

i hope you people provoide to us good recovery centers for deleted mails....

Here i con't find any mail confiramation delete of mails..

2007-08-23 15:58:02
To Google, I found you wrote that I said in '06 congratulations to "Doogie" for revealing he was a fucking faggot. Well, I never said that. So you better retract yourselves or I promise trouble for you.
2007-09-11 09:13:11
add me at the 61st person then, which i'm sure is more like 60,000
2007-09-15 08:31:10
uhh, technology malfunctions. take the risk, pay the price.
2007-09-23 05:46:37
I live in South Africa, Cape Town, and i have just had all my emails and contacts deleted. This is pretty messed up.

2007-09-27 01:21:39
new to gmail.Why does it attract so much spam?
google gurl 52
2007-09-27 17:53:25
HELP!!!my google accounts emails have ALL been erased i want them back please help

thanks -Google Gurl 51