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Google can completely shut down your Google account. Here's the info you need.
Imagine waking up one day to find out that your Google account is banned permanently with no way to get it back. You would likely be upset by this and consider it to be a major inconvenience, right?
Depending on how integrated you are within the Google ecosystem, a perma-ban could be more than an inconvenience — it could be devastating. A banned Google account means losing access to things you might use daily, including Gmail, Google Drive, Google Photos, and Google Pay. Any playlists you’ve made on YouTube are gone, too. It even means you must re-purchase all the apps, movies, and books you bought from the Google Play Store.
I don’t know about you, but it would turn my life upside down if my Google banned my account.
Although most users will never experience a banned Google account, it can and does happen. Here, we will summarize the basics of this problem as best we can, giving you all the info you need on how and why this happens. We’ll also let you know what you can do if your account is banned and, most importantly, how to prevent it from happening at all.
Yes, Google can ban your account
Just in case you’re surprised to find out this news, yes: Google has every right to terminate your account. You can read the full Terms of Service related to Google accounts, but all you really need to know is the line below:
We may suspend or stop providing our Services to you if you do not comply with our terms or policies or if we are investigating suspected misconduct.
It can’t get much more clear than that. If Google doesn’t like what you’re doing, it can suspend or terminate your account at any moment.
In the TOS document, Google says that it can ban your account if you “misuse” or “interfere” with its services. The language makes it sound as if Google is only concerned about people using a Google product in a way that’s not intended; for example, someone is hacking the Play Store to get items for free. It also seems as if Google primarily focuses on attacks on its products, such as a DDoS attack.
The language in Google's ToS is very broad.
However, the language is very broad. Google has full power to decide whether or not someone “misused” a service, which gives you, the consumer, not much of a leg to stand on. In other words, Google has a ton of power over your account, and there’s not much you can do about it.
Here is an example of how this can go awry. A slew of YouTube users had their Google accounts (not just their YouTube accounts) banned for “spamming” a video feed with Emojis. However, the YouTuber who created the video in question encouraged users to do just that, so Google didn’t have to go so far as to perform full account bans. To make matters worse, it took Google days to reactivate everyone’s accounts. Even then, some experienced data loss.
This is why you need to be careful and stay informed!
A banned Google account could be devastating
As mentioned, there are so many Google services on which we rely. Gmail alone has over 1.8 billion active users, or roughly 23% of the entire global population. A Google account getting banned could likely be devastating for the simple fact that you couldn’t access Gmail anymore.
For Android users, though, a banned Google account means their entire smartphone doesn’t work correctly. With a banned account, you’d no longer be able to sync your data, download your apps, or get notifications for some of the most prominent applications on your phone. The only way around this would be to log in with a new account and essentially start from scratch.
Just to make sure you understand the gravity of the situation, here’s an incomplete list of Google-owned properties that you would not be able to use with your current Google account fully should it get banned:
- Google Home
- Chrome OS
- Wear OS
- Google Nest
- Google Wifi
- Docs, Sheets, and Slides
- Google Drive
- Google Play Store
- Google Maps
- Google Fi
- Google Fit
- Google Pay
- Google Photos
Remember, it’s likely you wouldn’t only lose access to those products. In many cases, you wouldn’t even have access to any of the data associated with that account. That could mean some or all of your important documents in Drive, your cherished pictures in Photos, your email, your smartphone, and on and on. You wouldn’t even be able to connect to the internet at home if you rely on Google Nest Wifi!
Although there are plenty of examples of people getting unexpectedly banned by Google (see previous section, or this article, or this one), most people will likely go their whole lives and not see a ban. If it does happen, though, you have some options.
Google account banned? Here’s what to do.
If your Google account is banned and you’ve reached this article looking for assistance, you’re in luck. You can take a few steps to get your account (and data) back potentially.
First, you want to find out what happened. That’s as simple as logging into your Google account and then seeing what message pops up once you complete your sign-in.
Once logged in, you can attempt to restore your account from that same page. Just hit the “Try to Restore” button on that page and then follow the instructions.
Thankfully, Google offers an appeals process to deal with account bans.
If you try to restore but can’t, or there is some error message, you can directly appeal to Google. Use Google’s appeals form and complete it with all the necessary information. Google says it usually responds within two business days to appeals.
While you’re waiting, you can attempt to download at least some of your account data. Just open up the apps you use (Google Photos, Google Drive, etc.) while logged in to your banned account and examine the page that appears. For some apps, there will be a link to instructions on downloading your app data just in case Google doesn’t lift the ban.
Unfortunately, if your automatic appeal doesn’t work and then Google rejects your manual appeal, there’s not much you can do. You can try gaining social media traction if you feel this was an illegitimate ban. Google might change its mind to avoid bad press. But, once you’ve gone through the appeal process, you’re pretty much on your own.
Be proactive: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Chances are incredibly good that nearly everyone reading this article will never see a Google account banned. As long as you are a (generally) law-abiding citizen and aren’t using or attempting to use your Google account to nefarious ends, you will likely be safe.
However, it’s important to remember Google’s overarching reach across nearly every facet of our electronic lives. It has the power to take everything you use away at any moment. Therefore, the absolute best way to prepare for the potential of a banned Google account is to avoid relying entirely on the company.
Doing this protects yourself as best you can from an unexpected ban. Even if you follow all the rules of each service, that’s not a guarantee Google won’t ban you anyway (see the examples above).
Multiple accounts and local backups are your best friends if you are worried about seeing a Google account banned.
For example, if you store a lot of pictures and videos in Google Photos, keep a backup on a hard drive you own, just in case. Do the same for your videos uploaded to YouTube or your documents and files within Google Drive. Even if you don’t keep up with backups too often, you’ll at least still have some of your data if Google bans your account down the road.
Another way to be proactive is to create different Google accounts for different services. For example, you could make a “smart home” Google account that links to your Nest products, your Chromecasts, your Google Nest Wifi router, etc. You could then have another Google account for your media files, another for your smartphone, and on and on. That way, if Google bans one account, the other accounts remain unaffected.
Yes, both of these methods are inconvenient. The second one goes against the whole idea of the simplicity of a single Google account. But numerous instances of account bans for illegitimate reasons prove it’s better to be safe rather than sorry. You will need to determine for yourself what lengths you should go to to protect your data. But rest assured: Google has a lot of power here.