Google Gmail Account Policies

This is my 200th post for Library Shop Talk!

I’ve considered various topics to celebrate this milestone. Truthfully, I was a little stumped on deciding the topic to cover because it should be related to the topics covered in this blog, but unique at the same time.

And then came a golden opportunity from Google, and I decided to discuss a specific privacy issue related to Google’s Gmail account creation process. This is in honor of two of my research interests (Google).

It’s ironic that I’ve tried to sign up for a Gmail account for the past few days, and have been unable to do so.  I’ve created a few over the years for other people, and have been content with my current email system.  For work-related purposes, I decided to sign up for a new account for myself, through my pre-existing iGoogle account.

So what’s the issue?  A new “security” feature has been added in the last few months to the account creation process: new members are asked to provide their cell/mobile phone number to Google.

Most people don’t bat an eye at this request, but this new hoop raises some red flags with me.  Specifically, I do not want to surrender my private cell number to Google regardless of their free service, and nor do I want them to keep record of my cell phone number.  And, yes, Google does keep a list of cell phone numbers. If you don’t believe me, take a look at Google’s policy.

For those who don’t have a Google account, and can not access the policy (it may be locked down to current users), I added the policy about SMS verification below. I also could not find any policies against publicly posting Google’s policies, but I’m assuming Google officials will contact me if this is an issue.  (Note: I made a good faith effort to check if it was okay to post this PRIOR to this post).

I understand how this is one technique to battle spam and other abuses, but we’re also talking about privacy.  So why not use another person’s cell phone to receive the verification message?  I don’t want to use friends or family as a sacrificial lamb, and use their phone number instead of mine.  Yes, I could go through someone who already has an account and logged their phone number, but that is not the principle.

I sent Google a message about their policy a few days ago, but I doubt I’ll hear a response.  While I’ve been unable to use this resource for work-related purposes, I’ll close in saying that this is truly Google’s loss and not mine for a variety of reasons.  I hope that Google changes it policy in the future, and I wonder if there will be fewer Google users due to this change.

Basics: SMS account verification

I don’t have a mobile phone. Can I sign up?
Why am I being asked to provide a mobile number?
Will the verification message cost me anything?
How long will it take to get the message?
Will Google keep or use my phone number?
How do I know if my phone can receive text messages?
Why is my country not available in the menu?

I don’t have a mobile phone. Can I sign up?

If you’re trying to sign up for a Google Account, you may be asked to provide a mobile number to verify your identity. We’ll send you a verification code via SMS, so make sure the phone you use has text-messaging capabilities. If you don’t have a mobile phone and are prompted to enter your phone number, you may want to ask a friend if you can use his or her number to receive a code.

Why am I being asked to provide a mobile number?

We ask some users to verify their identity via SMS before they’re able to create accounts in an effort to protect our users and combat abuse of our systems.

We take spam and abuse very seriously, so there are numerous measures we take to block spammers and their messages. Sending verification codes to mobile phones is just one way to address this.

Will it cost me money to receive the message?

We suggest contacting your mobile phone provider for details on costs associated with text messaging. These costs vary, depending on your wireless plan and provider.

How long will it take to get the message?

Usually, you’ll receive a text messages very quickly after it’s sent, but sometimes the delivery can be delayed. If you’ve waited more than 24 hours and don’t have the verification message, you can request that the code be resent.

Will Google keep or use my mobile phone number?

Google will use your phone number to send a verification code in a text message to your phone. We do store each phone number to make sure it is not being used to create a large number of accounts, but we will not sell your personal information for marketing purposes without your permission, nor will we contact you using this number without your expressed permission.

For more information, please review the Google Privacy Policy:

How do I know my if phone can receive messages?

Most recent models of mobile phones support the ability to send and receive text messages. We suggest contacting your mobile phone provider for details on your subscription services.

Why is my country not available?

There are a number of countries and carriers for which we don’t provide this service because of varying limitations. If possible, you may want to try a friend’s phone on another carrier.

Google HelpAccounts HelpGetting StartedCreating a Google Account › SMS account verification

About repplinger

John has served as a Reference Librarian at Willamette University since 2002. He is the liaison to the Science Departments, and is responsible for maintaining the collections related to the life & physical sciences. His research interests range over the entire spectrum of libraries and information sciences, but includes: - Google and its influence on information & society - The Internet's influence on information seeking & sharing behaviors - Trends of scholarly communication - Electronic learning environments - Traditional pedagogy - GIS use in academic libraries

Posted on January 12, 2010, in Google, Policies, Privacy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I have at&t and i wanted to know if it will cost me money for me to verify my sms, i have unlimeited text messages, but will there be any additional costs?

  2. Rachel,
    If you have unlimited text messages through AT&T, I suspect that it shouldn’t cost you anything extra to verify a GMAIL account with your SMS. You may want to give the service phone line at AT&T a call if you’re concerned about additional costs.

    The WORST case scenario you’d likely face would be a minimal texting fee which would amount to a few cents. However, I strongly doubt that it will cost anything extra if you live in the U.S. (maybe a little if you’re over seas).

  3. I’m putting together a presentation for seniors at a local library covering how to use e-mail. I was really surprised to run into the SMS verification screen. Since many seniors don’t have cell phones and many will be using library computers to create their e-mail accounts, I now have to consider doing Hotmail or Yahoo instead. I’m really disappointed by this and Google will lose quite a few new users as a result.

    Ryan Tayor
    Computers Made Easy

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