It's one of those things that you read about, but are never really sure about: you think "maybe he was doing something fishy, and isn't tellling it straight in the public account of the incident".
So I'll try to stick to "just the facts".
A few weeks ago, I dug up some old book reviews I'd done, and posted to Facebook, and opened a site here: http://davids-book-reviews.blogspot.com/ as a way of collecting them. Naturally, I also added Amazon referral links, because, hey, it helps feed my reading habit! Last month I got enough to buy two whole Kindle books, so we're not exactly talking about "get rich quick" territory here. We're not even talking about anything remotely close to my day job, for that matter. But hey, if I can get a little bit extra to spend on books, it's nice. The reviews were basically quick notes on books I read. Nothing that I or the rest of humanity can't get along without, but I felt like writing up a little something for myself and people I know on the internet – maybe it'll help someone else find an interesting book to read.
Several days later, I believe on October 8th, I woke up to find my phone was 'not signed in to Google', and, after repeated attempts, wouldn't sign in. Same thing with my Nexus 7. Logging in to my computer, in something of a cold sweat at this point, I find I can't get into Gmail or anything else, either. Luckily, on the computer, Google's system did redirect me to a page where they mentioned suspicious activity, and gave me the chance to reactivate things by sending an SMS to my phone. This did work quickly, and did a little bit to alleviate some of my stress. I understand that locking things down quickly is probably to my benefit as well as theirs in the event of an actual security breach of someone's account: it keeps the attacker from doing any more damage. However, it was sure a bad way to start a Monday morning.
However, the actual 'blog' (sorry, I hate the word!) was still blocked. It too has a form to fill out to prove that you're human. Although: as a computer guy, you'd think that with all the clever people at Google, they would be able to tell from my access patterns to the site, browser footprint, IP addresses and so forth, that…well, I am me. In any event though, they promised to review the blog within two days. So, I waited patiently. A week later, still nothing. Then, the next day, I went back to check on the status, and they had reset the review request: it no longer said anything about October 8th, when I had originally made the reinstatement request. So I filled in their form again, asking to have my blog back. That was yesterday, we'll see what happens next.
As far as I can tell, I did not violate their actual terms of conditions, which say nothing about referral links: http://www.blogger.com/content.g
Since the people at Google are loth to speak with their users directly, it seems as if one of the best ways of getting support is to complain loudly and publicly about this kind of shennanigan.
And to forestall the somewhat inevitable comments on anything related to Google: 1) Yes, I know I signed an agreement where they say they can do whatever the hell they want and I can f**k off if I don't like it. Try and do anything on line with a major company and not get a contract like that, or for even more entertainment value, try and negotiate the contract with t he company. Good luck. If you don't say yes, you're pretty much on your own; there doesn't seem to be much of a market for "more humane terms and conditions" out there. 2) I know, I know, relying on the Google beast is a great way to set yourself up for a big fall if anything ever goes wrong, because it's impossible to appeal, or pretty much even to talk with a human. But with a limited amount of time in my life, to date, Google has been a pretty good deal. I suppose it's something of a "black swan" situation: everything seems fine until one day WHACK, and Google pulls the carpet from under your legs.
Well, I hope someone out there can help me recover my content. I wrote it myself, and I would like to save my book reviews somewhere.
What alternatives are there to the Google colossus? Not too many that I can see that are anywhere at all as convenient.
Edit: 2012-10-17: I don't know what did it, but they have reinstated the site. Strange and disconcerting, but I guess things are ok for the time being. Thanks to whoever it was at Google that finally had a look.