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July 3, 2018

Google Cloud Pledges Sweeping Review of User Suspension Processes

"We're making changes" pledges Google

By CBR Staff Writer

Google Cloud has promised to conduct a “detailed review” of its abuse prevention and account suspension processes, after a furious response from one customer to a threatened shut-down spilled into public.

The post by an unnamed user in a Medium blog drew nearly 9,000 “claps”, or likes, after hitting out at the “no-warnings-given, abrupt way they pull the plug on your entire systems if they (or the machines) believe something is wrong.”

The unnamed writer said they use Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to monitor hundreds of wind turbines and scores of solar plants in eight countries, using the data they get to generate immediate corrective maintenance, and algorithms on data in BigQuery.

After a “barrage of emails” from GCP warning of “potential suspicious activity” the user’s system was turned off. (They pulled the plug with no warning: the site is down, app engine, databases are unreachable, multiple Firebases say I’ve been downgraded”).

“Customer service chat is off. There’s no phone to call. I have an email asking me to fill in a form and upload a picture of the credit card and a government issued photo id of the card holder. Great, let’s wake up the CFO who happens to be the card holder.

Failure to do so in 3 days would result in the project been deleted.

“What if the card holder is on leave and is unreachable for three days? We would have lost everything — years of work — millions of dollars in lost revenue,” the user wrote.

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Although the issue was ultimately resolved, GCP says, in under an hour, the story cast a light on what many respondents felt was a paucity of customer service at the cloud provider and an overly aggressive response to perceived risk.

Google Cloud Platform: We’ll Change!

Google Cloud Platform’s Engineering Support Brian Bender said: “On June 28, our automated systems identified potential fraudulent account activity and after human review, we suspended services on the account. After conducting an internal review, we reinstated the customer’s account in less than an hour after suspension.”

He added: “We are now conducting a detailed review of our abuse prevention processes.”

Mr Bender laid out three steps that Google Cloud will take to ease its user fears of account deletion and customer communications channels: “We will re-evaluate the data sources that we use to assess potential fraudulent activity.”

The post also says that they will be implementing additional mechanisms around suspect accounts. Users may receive more notifications about the threat and the company will ask for earlier payment to avoid system downtimes.

Thirdly they have stated that: “We will endeavor to meaningly improve the effectiveness of how we communicate account warnings.”

“Protecting our customers and systems are a top priority,” he added. “Protecting our customers and systems are a top priority. We sincerely apologize for this issue and are working quickly to make things better, not just for this customer but for all GCP customers.

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