[–] ronsor link

This is a general issue with google. If their system decides it doesn't like you, then you're out of luck. You'll never get them to fix it.

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[–] ploxiln link

This is also a problem with Square, and Stripe, and Paypal ... it's an unsolvable fraud/scammer problem.

Basically, if there was customer support that could fix the problem, then skilled scammers can get money and control out of them. They can do it a lot better than you can get your stuff re-enabled, they know just when to say what to whom.

Verizon just accepts the inefficiency, and also over-charges random customers, sometimes hands over control of a phone number to a scammer so they can get auth codes over SMS, has clueless support, etc. Google hasn't accepted this way of the world yet (but in scaling up the support has necessarily become disempowered).

It is very frustrating. It's a nature of things going mass-market. Just a few people, everything can be nice. Too many people, scams and fraud become big problems.

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[–] gameswithgo link

>it's an unsolvable fraud/scammer problem.

credit card companies and traditional banks and credit unions handle it fine.

>Too many people, scams and fraud become big problems.

if the solution to fraud is un-fixable account freezes, you have not actually solved anything. It is fraud itself.

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[–] MyNameIsFred link

They most certainly do not "handle it just fine". They are highly scammable, they know it, and it's "solved" my moving as much of the burden and repercussions onto the consumer as possible.

I've had my identity stolen, and both my wife and I have been mistaken for somebody else. There ARE way to move past this condition (inline with Google Pay, apparently), but it's just done via trust. Or apathy. Or acceptable risk. Or some combination thereof. It never truly goes away.

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[–] brownbat link

Huh. I've had credit card companies call me proactively when they thought something was wrong, before I caught any stray purchases. They refunded the money before I knew my card was stolen. So that was nice.

But then I've also heard pure horror stories about stolen identities, and I am genuinely sorry you faced any of that.

So what's going on here...

I think this is due to one aspect of their model that is ultimately an improvement, even though it still completely breaks at moments.

+ + Your card number is not your account. + +

Ie, if your CCN is compromised, it's disposable without starting your relationship with the company entirely from scratch.

Your "identity" though is not disposable. Your identity controls your relationship with the company and is not disposable. That causes major problems when hijacked, as it did for you. And that's not fixable (or at least not easy to fix at all).

So while we might not be able to solve the problem with identity, we can create firebreaks -- disposable parts of the infrastructure that attract some thefts because they allow quick wins. Ie, CCNs provide access to money. That funnels a lot of theft towards something that is easy to monitor and patch.

The identity theft remains an issue, but hopefully hits fewer people.

One thing that makes Google struggle is that they combine all of these interactions together. Nothing is revocable without resetting your entire relationship.

Given that they started as an email service, I have no idea if it's even fixable from where they are.

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[–] pishpash link

How is the Google way not even more so "moving as much of the burden and repercussions onto the consumer as possible"? They let fraudsters kill your accounts just so they don't have to take any liability or staff humans.

I've said this and will say it again, Google doesn't know how to deal with humans. They've failed in every endeavor where humans have to be in the loop.

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[–] bryanrasmussen link

I was going to say this but then I realized that what was meant by consumers was of course the people buying the services from the people whose accounts are cancelled. So the argument is that in the credit card world it is harder to cancel the accounts of scammers, and the people who buy from them must suffer more.

Not sure if I agree, and it does seem to me that Google's way is worse because at least there are some legal protections for people (consumers) who are scammed in the credit card way but in Google's way there is no protection of any sort for people whom the system dislikes.

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[–] kiriakasis link

Not to defend google but the problems they are having now to access their own google play are the same problem a scammer would have to go do it.

It does not look like a perfect balance, but they apparently err on the security side.

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[–] hennsen link

A bank solving your issue as “acceptable risk” and trust, and it results in me being able to access my card and bank account, to me it’s “just fine”.

If google takes the path of rather locking everything down then risking to lose a cent, it’s safe for them and bad for customers... not fine.

Sure risk is never just dissolving into light, nuce smelling smoke. Someone has to take and handle it.

I propose it’s the company who makes billions to handle it gracefully for customers ...

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[–] ardy42 link

>>>it's an unsolvable fraud/scammer problem.

>> credit card companies and traditional banks and credit unions handle it fine.

> They most certainly do not "handle it just fine". They are highly scammable, they know it, and it's "solved" my moving as much of the burden and repercussions onto the consumer as possible.

That's false. I'm credit card companies are required by law (at least in the US) to shield customers from the repercussions of credit card fraud.

I've had my card number stolen twice, once by someone who used it in the same metro area as I live in, and it both cases it went about as smoothly as you could imagine.

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[–] smsm42 link

> it's "solved" my moving as much of the burden and repercussions onto the consumer as possible.

I've had fraudulent charges on my credit card several times, and I've had checks stolen, and in no case I had any repercussions and financial burden shifted on me. I didn't pay a cent, and both credit companies and banks never tried to claim I am responsible for it - they rolled back the charges and reissued account numbers and that was it for me. Maybe I'm just exceptionally lucky, but my impression from other people that this is what happens in most cases like mine. Of course, whole full-blown identity theft is a different matter, probably harder to handle.

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[–] akimball link

Nothing ever truly goes away until relativistic effects dominate.

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[–] JimboOmega link

It fixes one "fraud" path - where somebody seizes control of an account and holds it for ransom. Since the account itself is effectively destroyed by any flagging, it's then of no use as a hostage. An account that is flagged in any way is no longer of any use at all, no point to taking them over.

Of course, a scammer could threaten to destroy your accounts, and can do so very easily and credibly... So that's not exactly a huge improvement.

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[–] wyldfire link

> This is also a problem with Square, and Stripe, and Paypal ... it's an unsolvable fraud/scammer problem.

It's compounded by the fact that Google has the primary element of your 21st century identity: your email address.

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[–] jjeaff link

I recommend anyone who likes Gmail to use your own domain name@example.com and just forward all messages to your Gmail address. Only give out your own example.com email and set it as the reply to.

Even the cheap budget registrars offer email forwarding for free and I have never had any trouble.

This gives you the benefits of free Gmail without handing your entire life over to them. At least with a tld there is some due process and rules to protect you.

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[–] dpark link

You’ll find that if you do this, you start getting emails directly to your gmail anyway. I never give out my gmail address, but I use gmail and they happily report my gmail address when they send email as my “real” account. (Both email addresses are included in emails I send.) And upstream they are happy to respond to that gmail account when people hit the reply button.

So I have tons of people who would essentially seem my contact as a black hole if I abandoned my gmail address at this point, because Google seems to have deliberately crafted their clients to prefer the gmail address rather than the “real” address. Essentially treating the gmail address as if it’s a reply-to.

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[–] velosol link

It's because of Google's use of 'From' and 'Sender' headers in gmail. If you setup an SMTP server to send your emails from for your @example.com address then Google won't mess around and the emails appear to actually come from the email address you want out there, not your @gmail.com.

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[–] jrobn link

Or just pay Fastmail $30 a year for such an important 21st century utility such that e-mail is.

I don't use gmail for anything else except throwaway accounts. Who wants to run an SMTP server.

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[–] lotsofpulp link

Crazy how many people don’t view email as a critical part of life infrastructure worth paying for.

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[–] dpark link

You can actually set up gmail to send through an external server? I had no idea they’d support that. Running an SMTP server is absolutely not something I’m willing to do, though. Aside from the general setup/maintenance hassle, all the big companies are aggressive at blocking spam and private SMTP servers are just tough to keep unblocked these days (or so I read).

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[–] angry_octet link

If you have GSuite you can, but I doubt it is possible for individual accounts. [1,2]

You can however send email to google's SMTP server, using an ordinary gmail account [3]. This is how email clients (Eudora, Apple Mail, sendmail) work. The only trick is that they force it to be authenticated and encrypted.

I believe (but have not verified recently) that if you send an email with an email address/domain other than of the authorising account, it will be delivered, even lacking all SPF etc. But, it will block for anything above small quantities of mail, and unless you set up DMARC for your domain, it will still get dropped or marked as spam. [4]

Running an SMTP server for yourself is actually fairly simple (okay, assuming a deep background in linux, but very educational). The real drama is DNS/DMARC/SPF/DKIM and users ruining your reputation.

[1] https://www.datto.com/resource-downloads/SettingUpExternalMa... [2] https://support.google.com/a/answer/178333?hl=en [3] https://www.digitalocean.com/community/tutorials/how-to-use-... [4] https://kinsta.com/knowledgebase/free-smtp-server/

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[–] andrewaylett link

It is, I do -- inbound email forwarded to gmail, outbound from gmail goes out through my server and while it's obvious it's from gmail, it doesn't actually include my gmail address anywhere.

Sending from Google's servers using my address would cause SPF and DMARC failures, so if you want to do that then they'd have to make sure it's clear that the mail is actually from gmail.

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[–] lathiat link

Last time I tried this they forcibly rewrite the sender as your gmail account.

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[–] alanfranzoni link

This happens because you use Google's own SMTP. If you configure an external SMTP (e.g. Amazon SES) then the gmail webapp won't tell your gmail address to third parties.

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[–] slyall link

I wouldn't advise doing this. Forwarding all your email from one provider to another doesn't really work in today's Internet.

The problem is that from gmail's point of view your registrar is now sending it a lot of spam. So it'll block the registrar or filter it more aggressively.

Also if you get email from a 3rd party who uses domain-keys, spf, etc (eg just about everyone) then those emails will be failing all the checks when gmail receives them.

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[–] mrb link

You misunderstand jjeaff. He suggests making the MX of yourdomain.tld point to Gmail's MTAs. This is what he means by "forwarding email". This is the best-practice way to do it and works perfectly well.

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[–] toomuchtodo link

This is inaccurate.

I have namecheap forward all of my email from *@my-domain-name.com to my.name@gmail.com. Works no problem, has for several years. Prepared for the eventual switch to FastMail when they support multi-label messages.

The only messages that end up in my spam folder are spam for knock off online pharmacies.

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[–] slyall link

Hmm [goes off and does more research].

Okay, it appears this is so common that gmail has some guidelines that if people follow they are are usually okay:

https://support.google.com/mail/answer/175365?hl=en

It does look like namecheap filters spam aggressively so possibly that helps.

In general be careful for the reasons I mention. But it looks like if you follow the guidelines with gmail then you'll be good.

Sorry for the inaccurate information.

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[–] Evidlo link

I've been doing this for years without any trouble.

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[–] stolsvik link

Agree, and I've been doing this for about a decade with very little problem. (Google do add both a Sender and From, with the Sender being your GMail-address. But that has not been a problem.)

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[–] neetdeth link

Are there actually rules and due process? I was under the impression that it's just a convention that the registrar won't seize your domain unless they really, really dislike you.

edit: I shouldn't be oblique in my comments. I'm of course referring to the whole Daily Stormer fiasco.

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[–] ethbro link

It becomes a legal and business decision for the registrar.

Most serve at the pleasure of a formal contract with their TLD control entity (e.g. ICANN).

Ultimately, if you were to sue them, there's a root document of legal responsibilities and behavior to point to.

In contrast to whatever emphemeral TOS bullshit Google feels like tossing out. And furthermore, unlike Google, they can't really just ignore you.

Or, to put it another way, VISA, American Airlines, Coke, etc also have an interest in maintaining legal ownership of domains. They could care less about Google accounts.

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[–] cookiecaper link

> Ultimately, if you were to sue them, there's a root document of legal responsibilities and behavior to point to.

But actually if you were to sue them, wouldn't the case be dismissed for lack of standing? If you're not a party to the dispute you can't sue (or rather, you can't sue and actually have your case proceed). You'd probably need to convince ICANN that they need to sue, which is already a much trickier position.

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[–] hcurtiss link

I'm increasingly convinced it's your cell phone number (i.e., all the IM services using SMS authentication). And when you're using Google Fi, they have that too.

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[–] njarboe link

It is too bad that I can't pay $50 and/or go somewhere in person to try and solve serious problems. This would eliminate most scammers and give people a way to get something done when it is really serious. I would guess this is not done because the PR hit for charging to talk to a person would be bigger than just ignoring certain people's problems (or companies don't want to have divisions that make more money when the rest of the company screws up, but I doubt that).

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[–] stephenhuey link

At the very least, they should figure out how to empower somebody in the support structure. This happened to me with that silly Cash app from Square (the Twitter handle is very cutesy in its interactions with people). It seemed kinda cool in how it let us come up with our own handle for people to send us money for our wedding, but left such a terrible taste in my mouth when everyone told me it wasn't working and Square shut down my account with no explanation. Why do millions of people depend on that? I want options like that to exist, but if I really need to depend on people being able to give me money, I'm just going to tell them to send it via my Chase account since for all its problems, Chase is a mature business. Maybe I'd use an Emoji app from Square just to share some giggles with people, but a money app from Square??? Nope, their brand lost my trust at the worst possible moment.

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[–] kevincennis link

I've actually had decent luck getting Stripe to un-blacklist subscribers that they incorrectly identified as fraudsters.

But it takes a ton of back-and-forth with support reps who generally don't even know or believe you that blacklisting exists (sometimes just an email address, not a specific card, was blocked) – and in one case we didn't get a resolution until the customer got the CA Attorney General to write Stripe's general counsel.

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[–] saurik link

PayPal has sales representatives and technical support people and you can actually deal with them, so I am not sure the premise is right...

...but the core problem is this argument is in reverse anyway: if I get banned from Bank of America somehow I don't lose access to the concept of a card that lets me pay for my Verizon account, and in the worst case scenario I can send them a check. I have had serious issues with Verizon paying for my account before (they both claimed I was behind on payments but would not accept money without a PIN number, which I could only get by verifying my address using a post card that would take forever), but it wasn't a catch-22 scenario where I lose my phone number as there is somehow literally no way to pay for their service again.

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[–] fernly link

Are you sure about PayPal? Because I believe I have read quite a few pathetic stories -- similar in tone to the posted article about Google Fi -- about PayPal accounts being frozen with no recourse, for example[1]. And PayPal settled a class-action lawsuit on just this topic[2].

[1] http://www.paypalwarning.com/paypal-frozen-account/

[2] https://www.doctorofcredit.com/paypal-class-action-lawsuit-f...

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[–] taneq link

I thought PayPal's issues were on the receiver side rather than the payer side? Making payments seems OK, it's just if you use PayPal to receive payments, they can arbitrarily freeze your funds for 6 months whenever they feel like it.

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[–] drdaeman link

Not always.

I've recently moved to the US, and I wanted to get myself a Spitify account (hah). I had to wait for SSN for a few weeks, so no bank account yet - my only option was a prepaid Visa card. Bought one at QFC, used it with PayPal (a fresh account, as my old one is tied to another country) - and found it blocked the next day. PayPal had asked for an ID and address confirmation.

I had my passport, but no utility bill (I was still using Airbnb, just looking for a long-term place to live). Asked support if there's anything I can do - and got nothing useful besides "we need a driver license or utility bill", even though I specifically asked what else could I provide if I don't have either of those (I had a mailing address from a forwarding company). Account was unusable, all I could do with it was logging in :)

Then I've rented apartments and tried to send them a lease contract (with my full name and address) and it was rejected. Not an utility bill, right. Asked support about it, got no reply at all.

Waited for a month, got electricity bill, and only then my account was unlocked.

So, anything unusual - and even if you don't receive any money, you account could be blocked.

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[–] mjevans link

I believe these issues could be solved by actually taxing corporations and providing the service they clearly so desperately need.

An /actual/ (inter)national ID and Identity verification service. One where disputes about identity and authorization can be escalated somewhere that makes sense, to the jurisdictions issuing these IDs.

Ideally someone should be able to go to a police station (locally for local IDs, if on vacation/out of hometown in liaison between departments) and have their identity verified in a trusted way, and that verification reported as pass/fail to a third party whom is asking.

This would also be the way of officially disputing fraudulent uses of identity; they would be reported via the same actions, but as a customer initiation (and statement of legal testimony taken in a case that would then be opened and reported to the involved parties).

BTW, such a system SHOULD also include address resolution, for physical mail, voice, and electronic services (any sub-name actually).

I would LOVE to only update my address in ONE place when I move, instead of trying to remember everyone I've ever given it to.

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[–] kalleboo link

Sweden has a personal identity number system, with an address/phone database that business can subscribe to. When you're shopping online, you can enter your ID number and it auto-populates your address. When you move, banks and others will automatically pull your new address from the database.

The banks then created a digital ID system (BankID) on top of this which is now used by everyone for real ID verification. Your physical ID is checked by a bank teller, and after that you get either a digital certificate file or a 2FA token that you can then use online to prove your identity for signing contracts (insurance etc), filing your taxes, or just logging into bank accounts etc.

Practically it works pretty well, even though I know philosophically an ID number like that would never fly in the US, and security-wise I'm sure experts have lots of objections.

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[–] AnssiH link

This works similarly in Finland.

Form auto-population by ID is rare here, though.

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[–] akimball link

How well served are the unenumerated?

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[–] tomjen3 link

Dane here, we have mostly the same system.

There are only really two groups that have issues: the very young (who are not used to checking up) and the very old (who are not used to computers).

Nobody is unenumerated, everybody has our version of a social security number, you are mostly required by law to have a bank account (and banks are required to give you one, except in specific individual cases such as you acting in an inappropriate manor)

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[–] marcus_holmes link

I don't have a physical address (I move approximately every 3 weeks). I don't have a phone number (I move country every 3 weeks and need a new SIM each time).

I have so many problems with online authentication it's not funny.

So yeah, I'd love a global system of identification, but please let's not tie it to an address or phone number

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[–] s17n link

Tying to a physical location actual serves an important function in that it introduces an asymmetry between you and a potential attacker / identity thief - it's much cheaper for you to physically show up at your local courthouse to contest something than it is for an attacker to fly in. Any suggestions for how to solve this?

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[–] s17n link

By "solve" I mean come up with another similar asymmetry which doesn't depend on your physical location being constant.

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[–] marcus_holmes link

I dunno, that kind of starts with the assumption that people live at one address, in one country. This is what I'm pointing out: that assumption is not true.

I accept that I'm an edge case, but a large minority of (for example) Australians have dual nationality, and will have lived in either of the countries that they're citizens of for long periods of time. Some haven't settled on one yet, and skip back and forth every few months/years. All of them (us) have stories of identity systems, bureaucracy and banks not understanding that they moved country.

You're asking for a replacement asymmetry when the thing you're replacing in the first place isn't actually useful.

But, to answer the question: email is the one thing I'm pretty sure that I and I alone can get to. I have two email addresses, from different providers, using 2FA (google Authenticator on my phone). The 2FA bit is probably enough asymmetry.

However, even that, I could lose: if I fall into a swimming pool while carrying my backpack and phone, I'd have a hard time proving who I am to anyone until I got everything back up and running. Even worse, if I fell into a swimming pool while moving accommodation I'd have my passports in my backpack... not a comforting thought at all.

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[–] toomuchtodo link

Passport number along with cryptographic authentication similar to Estonia’s ID card. I believe this satisfies the need for authentication of all citizens at a global scope.

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[–] threeseed link

Not everyone has passports let alone valid ones.

And getting one for people can be difficult as many people especially older ones don't have supporting documentation e.g. birth certificates and so can't prove identity.

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[–] SiempreViernes link

Several millions don't even have citizenship.

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[–] toomuchtodo link

You can’t function as a citizen of a country without identity documents. Passport national ID cards, in my opinion, the optimal solution to the problem. Issuance can be streamlined, and cost can be absorbed for those who can’t afford it.

Society requires foundations.

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[–] dragonwriter link

> You can’t function as a citizen of a country without identity documents.

Sure you can. Identity documents exist more to prevent (the “wrong") people from functioning as citizens than to enable people to do so.

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[–] tooop link

If you look young, how can you even buy alcohol or cigarettes (in my countries case even energy drinks) or get in a club? In my country each citizen must have an identity document - either a passport or ID card (drivers license doesn't count). I can't see it any other way as you need to ID yourself in stores (in the mentioned case if you look young and want to buy alcohol/cigarettes/energy drink), post office when receiving package, getting drivers licence, opening bank account, getting loans etc.

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[–] tomjen3 link

The checking for a picture id is mostly an issue in the US, because they are insanely horrified by thought that people drink in the US in the exact way they do in most of the western hemisphere.

Anyway never had an issue with getting a package with my drivers license, and I didn't recall having issues before I got that. My passport is expired, because travel is inconvinient and mostly made obsolete with the internet.

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[–] AnthonyMouse link

> If you look young, how can you even buy alcohol or cigarettes (in my countries case even energy drinks) or get in a club?

It is possible to go your entire life without ever doing any of those things, or having any desire to. And as a general rule, it's the people who are of legal age who least care to do them. Also, some countries don't have age restrictions on such things to begin with (or don't enforce them at all).

> post office when receiving package

Who goes to the post office to receive a package? They come to you, and are then satisfied by the fact that they delivered the package to the address on the label.

> getting drivers licence

This a major reason why this is pointless. If you're going to have an ID, how do you identify yourself to get the ID? It's fully circular. You can't prove who you are unless you can already prove who you are, in which case you already have an ID.

In the US a large percentage of the population don't have passports. When you get a driver's license, they nominally ask you for some other ID, most of which (e.g. birth certificates or company/school IDs they have no way to authenticate) are trivially forged and useless at proving the person is who they say. Because it has to be that way -- you can't make having an ID a condition of getting an ID.

The whole idea is silly. Identity is context. If you create an email address with Google, you set a password. Then Google knows you're the person that email address belongs to because you're the one with the password. Your government "identity" has nothing to do with it, nor should it.

> opening bank account

The only reason banks care about this is that the government requires them to. Otherwise they would be completely satisfied to give you a numbered account with no person's name attached and simply put a hold on your deposits until after they've cleared, as they do for most anyone regardless.

> getting loans etc.

To get a loan what they care about is whether you're creditworthy, not what your name is. Prove that you have a job and a history of paying back debts, or post some collateral, that's what they want.

One system by which they automate this is to have credit reporting agencies that aggregate this information and associate it with your name, but there is no inherent reason it has to be done that way -- and some good reasons not to. See Equifax data breach.

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[–] tooop link

> It is possible to go your entire life without ever doing any of those things, or having any desire to. And as a general rule, it's the people who are of legal age who least care to do them. Also, some countries don't have age restrictions on such things to begin with (or don't enforce them at all).

Yes it is possible but you are describing outliers. Which first world country doesn't have age restrictions on alcohol or tobacco?

> Who goes to the post office to receive a package? They come to you, and are then satisfied by the fact that they delivered the package to the address on the label.

Envelopes and small packages (which fit) are left in mail box. In order to get everything else you have to go to your post office. Courier services deliver package to you personally and they don't leave it at your doorstep so anyone can steal it.

> This a major reason why this is pointless. If you're going to have an ID, how do you identify yourself to get the ID? It's fully circular. You can't prove who you are unless you can already prove who you are, in which case you already have an ID.

I don't really know how it is done today but in theory you could prove it by taking DNA/fingerprints at birth and registering accordingly.

> The only reason banks care about this is that the government requires them to. Otherwise they would be completely satisfied to give you a numbered account with no person's name attached and simply put a hold on your deposits until after they've cleared, as they do for most anyone regardless.

We are talking about reality not a situation where government regulations doesn't exist so there is no way of having a bank account if you don't have some sort of ID.

> To get a loan what they care about is whether you're creditworthy, not what your name is. Prove that you have a job and a history of paying back debts, or post some collateral, that's what they want.

This is just plain wrong, they care about the identity in case you stop paying so they can go after you.

P.S. You also need ID to own property, companies etc. I can't deny that if you are living in the middle of woods off grid you might get by without an ID but if you are an average person you will need an ID eventually.

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[–] AnthonyMouse link

> Yes it is possible but you are describing outliers. Which first world country doesn't have age restrictions on alcohol or tobacco?

In many parts of the US the restrictions are not actually enforced, or you can prove your age using non-government-issued identification.

I also dispute your assertion that people who don't drink or smoke are outliers. The majority of people don't smoke and a large minority don't drink. In some major cultures and religions drinking is outright prohibited.

> Envelopes and small packages (which fit) are left in mail box. In order to get everything else you have to go to your post office. Courier services deliver package to you personally and they don't leave it at your doorstep so anyone can steal it.

In the US they leave it at your doorstep so anyone can steal it, because in practice hardly anybody actually steals it. Who is going to risk federal prison or getting shot by the homeowner over a mystery box which is probably just a $25 bulk pack of shampoo?

> I don't really know how it is done today but in theory you could prove it by taking DNA/fingerprints at birth and registering accordingly.

This doesn't work for anyone who is already an adult, and isn't already being done for newborns so won't work for them either, which means you've got more than a hundred years before something like that could be used without having living people it doesn't work for. It also fails permanently for anyone born and raised in another country.

On top of that, it still isn't solving the unsolved problem, which is identity theft. You can't use DNA or fingerprints over the internet (they're trivially forged if you control the reader), so they're just going to issue you a card or a PIN or some other thing you can use and then someone can steal/hack/forge it and impersonate you. Being able to prove your DNA doesn't disprove that you're the person who used your card+PIN to buy $50,000 in already-provided goods and services, or pay for an email account used to send spam etc.

> We are talking about reality not a situation where government regulations doesn't exist so there is no way of having a bank account if you don't have some sort of ID.

We don't have mandatory national ID cards either. If the proposal is to make a policy change to improve things, let it be the one that doesn't double down on a bad idea.

Also, around a quarter of Americans and half of people in India don't actually have a bank account, largely because they don't have any money to put in it and can't afford the fees that come with not having a minimum balance. So they get paid in cash, or something they immediately convert to cash, and pay for everything with that.

> This is just plain wrong, they care about the identity in case you stop paying so they can go after you.

That is why they require collateral. If you take out a mortgage they put a lien on the house. If you don't pay, they take the house. If you're on a beach in Argentina with a million dollars in cash in a briefcase, what does the bank care as long as the house sells for more than they're owed?

> P.S. You also need ID to own property, companies etc.

There are millions of people who don't own real property or companies, or even cars.

And even then, it doesn't require a national ID -- they all exist without it. They even predate modern identification. Because all of those things are local. If you want to transfer property, you go to a notary. The notary will want to know who you are, but that doesn't mean national ID. They could just take a picture of you and keep it for their records, or accept a non-government ID or an oath from a person known in the community that you are who you say you are.

Centralized identification is at the same time unnecessary and actively harmful.

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[–] tooop link

> In the US they leave it at your doorstep so anyone can steal it, because in practice hardly anybody actually steals it. Who is going to risk federal prison or getting shot by the homeowner over a mystery box which is probably just a $25 bulk pack of shampoo?

Nearly 1/3 of of people in USA have experienced package theft and it is only a federal crime if you steal USPS packages not Fedex/DHL/UPS etc.

> That is why they require collateral. If you take out a mortgage they put a lien on the house. If you don't pay, they take the house. If you're on a beach in Argentina with a million dollars in cash in a briefcase, what does the bank care as long as the house sells for more than they're owed?

I can get a personal loan without any kind of collateral as long as i have X income. Credit cards doesn't have collateral as well.

Honestly, i feel that we live in different worlds - i cannot fathom not having an official ID as there are occasions where i must have it (voting, travel, banking as well as government e-services where you can use bank login or your ID card certificate to identify yourself). There isn't a lot of press or reports from Personal Data Watchdog about somebody doing monetary damage from using other people data, in fact our ID numbers (like SSN) in some cases are public knowledge. I am not saying that our system can't be abused but right now i feel like it works just fine and i wouldn't want it any other way.

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[–] AnthonyMouse link

> Nearly 1/3 of of people in USA have experienced package theft and it is only a federal crime if you steal USPS packages not Fedex/DHL/UPS etc.

That statistic is from a survey done by Comcast as a precursor to trying to sell you a home security system. That is not a reliable source.

And stealing a non-USPS package is still a state crime, so the main difference is whose jail you sit in. Unless you manage to steal something which is actually worth a lot of money, or is involved in interstate commerce etc., in which case welcome back to federal prison.

> I can get a personal loan without any kind of collateral as long as i have X income. Credit cards doesn't have collateral as well.

These are small loans, in which case the collateral is your job. They verify where you work, so if you don't pay they know where to find you. The only way to avoid them finding you is to quit your job, which they don't expect to be worth it for you to do over such a modest amount of money. Notice that the interest rates on those kinds of loans are dramatically higher -- because of the risk that they're wrong. If it was really your identity doing most of the work you would expect the interest rates to be much closer to those for loans with more substantial collateral.

> There isn't a lot of press or reports from Personal Data Watchdog about somebody doing monetary damage from using other people data

According to DOJ statistics, more than 17 million people in the US are victims of identity theft per year.

> Honestly, i feel that we live in different worlds - i cannot fathom not having an official ID as there are occasions where i must have it (voting, travel, banking as well as government e-services where you can use bank login or your ID card certificate to identify yourself).

You feel that way because you live in a place where having an official ID is required to do everything. That isn't a law of nature, it's just a law of the place you live. It's completely reasonable to do things a different way.

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[–] undefined link
[deleted]

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[–] logifail link

Except: when you renew a passport, don't you get a new passport number?

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[–] daurnimator link

why is that a problem? a well oiled practice for revocation in case of compromise sounds like a good thing to me.

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[–] vidarh link

Get a phone that supports dual sims (almost every Chinese phone), or a cheap second phone, and keep one for auth uses.

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[–] efreak link

But then you (usually) lose sdcard support because manufacturer too cheap to give you a dedicated sdcard slot.

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[–] vidarh link

I don't recall that having been an issue with the phones I've had, but I guess it must be an issue, as doing a search for "dual sim" on Aliexpress now brings up a ton of adapters to let you use both dual sim and a sdcard at the same time... (though I can't say I'd like to have one hanging out of the side of my phone...

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[–] AnthonyMouse link

The problem with centralized identification is that it doesn't actually solve anything, it only outsources it to a less security-competent entity which would be an even bigger target for fraud and corruption.

Creating one single place to change your address gives the attacker one single place to change your address. Compromise one system, bribe one police officer or DMV employee, get nation-wide root access to everything.

And how does it even solve the problem? The problem isn't that Google doesn't know whether you're John Smith. It's that Google thinks John Smith is a scammer they won't do business with, and they aren't willing to spend their resources helping you to clear your name.

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[–] lolc link

Well, fraud would still happen. The problem from the fraudsters point of view are manifold though: They have to actually deal with the police in person. Sending copies of identity documents by mail is not as involved as personally going to a police station. The risks are very different.

Similarily, you can have corruption at phone carriers and credit-card companies too. What matters is the audit-chain. If a police officer keeps id-ing fraudsters they won't be in the job for long.

That public servants are more corrupt and less competent than the corporate employees one depends on is not a universal experience. Not for me anyway.

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[–] AnthonyMouse link

> Well, fraud would still happen. The problem from the fraudsters point of view are manifold though: They have to actually deal with the police in person. Sending copies of identity documents by mail is not as involved as personally going to a police station. The risks are very different.

Not really, because that isn't how fraud happens now, and nothing about that would change it.

People don't commonly commit fraud by going to a government office to get an ID issued in your name, they do it by waiting for you to do that and then stealing it from you or otherwise convincing you to give them the information they need to authenticate using it.

> Similarily, you can have corruption at phone carriers and credit-card companies too. What matters is the audit-chain. If a police officer keeps id-ing fraudsters they won't be in the job for long.

That's assuming the audit chain is both secure and less susceptible to corruption than the original system. Audit logs don't help if they're compromised by the people with privileged access. Or you nominally have individual accounts but in practice they're shared or not secured against compromise by privileged users.

And assuming that the corruption problem is specific identifiable people rather than a systemic issue where >=5% of police are corruptible so one getting caught only requires the fraudsters to use any of the thousands of others.

> That public servants are more corrupt and less competent than the corporate employees one depends on is not a universal experience. Not for me anyway.

The difference in this case isn't that the quality of the people is different, it's that the nature of the system is different. Whereas an individual company might have five employees with sensitive access, across an entire national government there would be a hundred thousand or more, so the attacker has a hundred thousand chances to find the lowest common denominator instead of five. And then when they succeed the scope of the vulnerability is not limited to that one company, it's universal.

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[–] behringer link

We already have this system in the US. It's called a notary public. It works pretty well. Google just chooses to not use it.

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[–] njarboe link

Many US states have this place where you get you ID. It's often called the department of motor vehicles and is notorious for being a huge pain to deal with. Most places where the government works well in this capacity probably doesn't have companies pulling this kind of shit. Any Germans in the audience?

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[–] benologist link

It's more specifically a problem with Google as they actually have $106 billion in the bank and choose to write a few algorithms and pretend they've met their obligations to their customers, despite 20+ years of evidence it is insufficient. Some segments of their users like Adsense they have actually been stealing from for all this time via automated accounts bans and balance forfeiture safeguarded by their patently fake support.

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[–] benologist link

To provide a citation for their two decades of Adsense fraud, last year they settled a case they fought for four years after someone sued them for banning their account and stealing their revenue, alleging that they deliberately froze publisher accounts at the end of the month to maximize the amount of revenue to be stolen.

After a ban the allegedly fraudulent portion of the revenue is refunded to the advertisers, non-fraudulent revenue within the same time frame is ... they settled for $11m on the grounds that it would be too expensive to show how they didn't design a system intended to steal from their publishers.

https://www.searchenginejournal.com/adsense-lawsuit/248135/

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[–] computerex link

This is especially a problem for Google. They have somewhat earned a reputation of not providing customer support. One of the reasons why I stayed far away from Google Fi even though it looks very cool.

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[–] LeoPanthera link

I know it's against the narrative, but I find PayPal's support people (the ones you phone up, at least) to be both empowered and helpful. They have gone out of their way, on more than one occasion, to help me out and get my account back to normal.

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[–] paulie_a link

PayPal and eBay might as well be direct and just tell the seller/receiver to outright fuck off. It's a scammers paradise between the two. They are both awful corporations that blatantly support obvious fraud. They don't give a shit. They should be criminally investigated.

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[–] krferriter link

They need to require better identity-proofing methods. To open a bank account at many banks you need to physically show up at one of the bank locations and present physical original copies of identification documents.

Allowing people to submit documents online is not good enough. After the identity has been proven, then from that point on you can offer online services, but the initial account creation needs to be done offline.

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[–] smsm42 link

> Basically, if there was customer support that could fix the problem, then skilled scammers can get money and control out of them.

Possibly. Then the question is - what is more important for the company, tolerating some amount of losses but keeping honest customers happy, or minimizing the losses at the cost of innocent people being screwed hard. As an innocent person, I'd prefer the system that leans towards my benefit. Even if it'd cost Google whopping 0.0001% of their revenues.

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[–] fastball link

I mean, crypto is a payment system that won't kick you off for fraud.

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[–] rrdharan link

The DAO hack remediation has determined that was a lie.

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[–] fastball link

That was a reversal of fraud, nobody was banned from the Ethereum network (because nobody can be banned from the network).

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[–] AnthonyMouse link

Effectively reversing the transaction isn't the same as not letting you buy anything ever again.

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[–] lyall link

Even if it's deserved ;)

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[–] akimball link

Let's make human rights inalienable.

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[–] gamblor956 link

Have to chime in here: not a problem with Paypal. I've actually gone through this process, spoke with a real human being, and got things resolved in about 15 min...

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[–] wxz link

I completely disagree. I've had the same problem with PayPal and Venmo. At some point, if anything goes wrong, they just say their security system has flagged you and there is nothing they can do. They can't even tell you the issue. You just have to wait and hope it eventually clears you, hope it doesn't flag you the next time you do it (which it probably will somewhere in the algorithm, since you've been flagged before) or close/cancel your account.

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[–] gamblor956 link

I guess this is one of those times where it helps to be a lawyer...

As a money transmitter they have extra obligations and a quick call to the regulator can resolve issues relatively quickly (if you're a US citizen and live in the US).

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[–] zenexer link

I recently had nearly the same exact problem with Microsoft. Security department is a black box—zero communication. A friend working for Microsoft even escalated my case internally at the time, but nobody could do or see anything. My account was eventually unfrozen without so much as an email to notify me, never mind an explanation.

The point is, this issue isn’t limited to Google.

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[–] mattynice link

The difference is Microsoft doesn't provide you with your phone service do they?

I think this highlights the dangers of bundling all of your services through a single point of failure. Something Google probably is the most known for.

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[–] jlarocco link

Wouldn't surprise me if Microsoft saw how much money Google saves by not having support, and decided to follow their lead.

They used to have decent support.

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[–] Spooky23 link

It’s always been questionable.

Nowadays even Premier is garbage. The guidance from a TAM is to log calls before 10AM local time, so that the support don’t queue you to a desk that will pretend to contact you after you’re gone home.

The funniest thing is that if you answer after hours, you get someone not prepared to do anything, as he’s there to attempt contact to push the call out so they hit the SLA.

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[–] gambiting link

As an Xbox developer, Microsoft support is actually pretty good. They reply to questions pretty quickly and when needed you can even speak directly to the engineers responsible for the parts of the system. But then again, I imagine Xbox development team and their number of customers(developers) is tiny compared to the rest of Microsoft, so they can allow this kind of tight support.

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[–] alasdair_ link

>They used to have decent support.

In 2001 it was apparently on par with the "Psychic Friends Hotline" - https://slashdot.org/story/01/04/27/1715203/microsoft-tech-s...

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[–] magduf link

With Microsoft, it makes good sense for them to not have any support. They can save a lot of money that way, and there's simply no downside. Does it anger customers? Sure, but who cares? It's not like the customers are going to abandon Microsoft.

With Google, there is at least a chance they could move to the Apple ecosystem.

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[–] woolvalley link

Why wouldn't I abandon MSFT? There is google docs, chromebooks and mac os already. Only a small power user use case needs to stick with office specifically nowadays.

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[–] dabockster link

Last I checked, Windows is still the OS of choice for consumers, businesses, the space station (check the recent HN post and zoom in on one of the ThinkPads), etc. So MSFT still has a good chokehold on modern computing.

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[–] eitland link

> So MSFT still has a good chokehold on modern computing.

Many of us breathe quite freely (at work we're free to us any OS as long we don't bother IT.) It has like this for a little more than half of of my 10 last years (notable exceptions: 3.5 years as sysadmin on old system running Windows, 4 months consulting and 3 months with a boss who demanded everything ran Linux.)

Oh: and almost everyone demands we host on Linux or on cloud.

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[–] magduf link

As I said above, everyone who would abandon MS, already has (this apparently includes you). Everyone who hasn't yet, never will. So at this point, MS has nothing to lose by treating their customers like crap. The people who still use MS desktops certainly aren't going to switch to Linux, and the people who use MS servers and other business products are locked in and probably not interested in changing anyway because all their IT expertise is invested in that ecosystem. The people who demand you run everything on Linux aren't MS customers at this point, so MS doesn't care about pissing them off.

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[–] magduf link

Oh, I hear people complain all the time about them and how they're going to switch to Linux (usually because of Win10's spying), but I actually have yet to see anyone make the jump. It's all just hot air.

Anyone who actually would abandon MSFT already did so, many years ago. People who haven't abandoned them by now, will never do so.

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[–] jessaustin link

Lots of people already abandoned them years ago. It might be the sort of thing that isn't a problem... up until the moment the firm goes out of business.

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[–] fernandotakai link

i don't know but last august i had an issue with my surface and i talked with chat support as well as phone support without any issues.

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[–] jjeaff link

There are so many companies that could make customer service an absolute breeze compared to the nightmare they have created by just offering customer service chat with reps that are actually empowered to do something.

Of the few companies I know that have chat support, a very select few can do anything more than apologize and give you a phone number to call or place to open a ticket.

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[–] desireco42 link

My experience with Microsoft is very positive one. I had issue once with Windows on my old gaming machine. I called them, regular support couldn't help me, but they scheduled call with their dev center or something. I got to talk with very knowledgable lady, who not only directed me what to do to resolve problem, but also explained well what was the issue and all made perfect sense.

I was genuinely impressed. I think this was because my issue was not trivial and I got to talk with developers.

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[–] eitland link

I had a problem with an old USD10 purhase through their Windows store. They called me back and sorted the problem the same afternoon. Was genuinely impressed, haven't seen anything like that since IBM PC support in the 90ties.

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[–] duxup link

It turns out it didn't take computer AI "taking over" to just arbitrarily decide you're out, or wrong, or whatever with no recourse.

A company of humans have decided that's ok.

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[–] jonsen link

No single human says this is ok. There is no human consensus this is ok. This is a form of non-human intelligence taking over.

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[–] belltaco link

No, it's humans at Google deciding that the financial trade off is worth it. The CEO has the power to change it, but think it's an okay state of affairs.

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[–] duxup link

I think Google is aware of this issue and the powers that be clearly are ok with it.

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[–] clairity link

it's not an "intelligence" so much as emergent properties of systems. there are fields like system dynamics and macroeconomics that study such things.

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[–] waqf link

Yes — but all "intelligence" is an emergent property of systems. And because the system in this instance is not a human brain, it's non-human intelligence.

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[–] ghazak link

It’s not really intelligence, so much as selection pressure in the direction of high margin. Evolution isn’t “intelligence” either, but still leads to interesting or highly honed solutions to problems.

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[–] istjohn link

It's certainly not selection pressure. Google's systems did not evolve because similar companies out-competed and reproduced more effeciently than dissimilar companies. The metaphor doesn't work at all.

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[–] ghazak link

Yeah, I actually pretty much agree, I was more responding to the point that nobody made a decision for it to be this way, and that is intelligence. I actually think that it was something that was intentially planned for purely margin reasons.

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[–] dabockster link

No. This is simply lack of communication, both between computers and humans. All it takes is a couple DBs becoming unjoined in a query or someone not telling the full story for information to be lost.

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[–] rexpop link

Corporations are the first generation of general AI.

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[–] sangnoir link

"Corporations as slow AI" is subject that SF author and occasional HN poster Charlie Stross (@cstross) touched on in a presentation at CCC in 2017[1]

1. http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2018/01/dude-you...

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[–] walterbell link

Or the first generation of responsibility laundering.

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[–] chooseaname link

> You'll never get them to fix it.

I honestly don't think they know how. What I mean is, this just hasn't ever been a concern for them because their services were free so they don't have a history of customer service.

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[–] NorthOf33rd link

Yep. a few years ago I signed up for a promo where if I spent a certain amount in the app store, I'd get a free chromecast. Never got it. No recourse available. At all. It's really strange that this level of "service" is acceptable.

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[–] astura link

If your based in the US I'd encourage you to file a complaint with the FTC, this is considered "unfair or deceptive business practices."

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/media-resources/identity-the...

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[–] ThrustVectoring link

>No recourse available.

You can sue Google in small claims court for the value of the undelivered Chromecast and for the court fees you spent on suing them.

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[–] Sargos link

I would be too scared of Google closing my account as retaliation for this and me losing literally my entire digital life (family photos, my identity that's tied to gmail, etc).

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[–] narrator link

Ever notice how Google Photos always bugs you to clean up your phone of your personal photos and move everything to the Google cloud?

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[–] IOT_Apprentice link

someone should take that do not pay bot that fights traffic tickets and apply it to suing Google et al over these issues. https://www.theverge.com/2017/7/12/15960080/chatbot-ai-legal...

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[–] NorthOf33rd link

I could, and I probably should, but my time is worth something. For $25 I'd be doing it to make a point, but I'm not sure that point would actually be made.

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[–] ronsor link

but it's generally not worth your time or money to do so

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[–] tracker1 link

But it'd be interesting to see a LOT more small-claims court suits... a million paper cuts to bring some humility and service to the beast.

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[–] rchaud link

This won't happen, because Congress has done its best to try to limit action against corporations by trying to define everything under the sun as 'frivolous lawsuits that are clogging up our courts'.

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[–] ThrustVectoring link

True. The demand letter you write prior to filing a lawsuit will usually be enough, though. At some point someone runs the calculation between giving you what you want and fighting a lawsuit in small claims, and decides to give you things instead.

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[–] rchaud link

A Chromecast retails for ~$25. Even if the presiding judge decided to award 100x in 'punitive' damages, that's still $2500, which is far less than what it would cost Google to bother addressing the claim in court.

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[–] MrZongle2 link

"You'll never get them to fix it."

And, quite honestly, why would they at this point? They have millions of other customers they can ignore, that are still paying. Where are they going to complain? And how would other users in the same boat find such complaints?

It's certainly not right, but there's no strong incentive for Google to change how they're doing business right now.

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[–] zaarn link

You can get them to fix it in 1 simple step:

1. Stir up enough shit on social media that some higher up at Google basically does ''sudo fix-problem <customer>''.

Of course, then google apologizes and promises to fix things for everyone else but they don't.

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[–] droidist2 link

>If their system decides it doesn't like you, then you're out of luck. You'll never get them to fix it.

Exactly right. The only way to get them to even look at it is to have a friend who works at Google or have tons of Twitter followers and pressure them by tweeting the story.

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[–] undefined link
[deleted]

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[–] will_brown link

I had a similar problem with Apple.

I made an in app purchase (with a YC company nonetheless) and the company gave a limited period to cancel the service for a full refund. I cancelled the service within the deadline, and didn’t get a refund. I requested the refund from the YC company who said “they can’t” refund and I have to ask Apple. So I asked Apple for the refund included the YC company policy/purchase date/cancellation email and Apple told me I had to be refunded by the YC company.

With no recourse I did a chargeback and Apple blacklisted my debit card which basically bricked my ability to use my phone.

All these tech companies have their heads so far up their asses when it comes to cost cutting/customer service, it’s no wonder services like Twitter/FB serve as public shaming, complaint tools to access the otherwise inaccessible tech elite.

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[–] moogleii link

> bricked my ability to use my phone

I'm curious, how exactly? As far as I know, you can always use the phone without a linked payment method. You won't be able to download apps or use iCloud, but unlike the original example, your cellular service will still function. Apps will still run.

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[–] will_brown link

I think you more accurately framed it than I did. I threw “basically” in there because it wasn’t 100% nonfunctional, but for my purposes it was significant loss of functionality.

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[–] hinkley link

I wonder if you get a new debit card if you can fix this.

(though the last time I lost my card, Apple figured out how to bill my new one without me telling them. Wonder if that goes both ways?)

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[–] lostmsu link

It looks like in this case its the YC company in the wrong. How could they have claimed you could get a refund, and never provided you that? Even if they did not know Apple does not do it, its their claim and so is their responsibility. You could easily sue in a small claims court.

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[–] bduerst link

I think the point isn't who is really to blame here, but it's that no matter what cell service or tech you use, there are situations where they will stop service because of payment disputes even if you're in the right.

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[–] Sendotsh link

It's my understanding that refunds in the app stores (and Steam, etc) are entirely a feature of the store itself, and the product/app creator hasn't got a say in it or any control over it.

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[–] tinus_hn link

Which is logical as the store handles payments. The creators don’t have your financial information, how could they process a refund?

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[–] ohiovr link

My app on the apple App Store is mostly trouble free but occasionally maybe once a year I have to issue a refund. I can’t do it via Apple I just use PayPal. They could be scammers or bullshitters but I doubt it. Besides is the cost of the app worth more than my reputation?

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[–] monksy link

Sony does the same thing. It's a fraudulent activity on their part.

What happens: Your card gets used, or you bought something there that didn't work. Sony refuses to refund, if you escalate to a chargeback they'll ban your account and prevent you from accessing anything you bought on their network (even if it's not involved in the dispute).

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[–] bradknowles link

This is why you use virtual cards, such as provided by privacy.com. If it gets blacklisted or compromised or otherwise becomes more hassle than it's worth, just throw it away and create another one.

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[–] wvenable link

It's not the card that is blacklisted, it's your account. And depending on the platform, that might be your whole identity.

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[–] r00fus link

> Apple blacklisted my debit card which basically bricked my ability to use my phone

You are hyperbolizing. You can just use a different card. It's not like they killed your AppleID which wouldn't kill your phone regardless.

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[–] will_brown link

Do a charge back and experience it yourself...you can’t just “use a different card”

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[–] JohnTHaller link

Ever occur to you that someone using a debit card may not be able to "just use a different card"?

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[–] r00fus link

Perhaps this is an America-centric point of view, but almost everyone has multiple cards.

You can also use a prepaid credit or cash gift card to create an account or pay for Apple content.

Perhaps this US centrism colors Apple's view as well?

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[–] Terretta link

You don’t need a card to keep using the apps you’ve purchased.

You don’t need a card to maintain or get an Apple ID (unlike implied bythe default user flow, it’s possible to get w/o one).

You don’t need a card on an Apple ID to download free apps.

You even don’t need a card on an old account to use apps from that old account on the same device as apps from a new account, you just need to be able to provide valid credentials for both (seems like triggers when the device is trying to update the apps in question).

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[–] JohnTHaller link

Almost everyone of a certain level of means has multiple cards. If you only associate with people around your economic level, it is easy to believe that everyone has multiple cards. I have many friends in NYC with only a single debit card and either no credit cards (due to no or poor credit) or a few credit cards that are all maxed out.

It's also worth noting that many companies with subscription services specifically block signing up with gift cards. I do not know if this would apply to Google Pay or not.

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[–] samatman link

You don’t need a card of any sort to pay for stuff in Apple’s ecosystem.

iTunes gift cards are readily available at common retail outlets, which take cash, and can be used for apps, iCloud, and the rest of it.

Sucks that GP got his debit card blacklisted, that would annoy me as well, but “bricked”? c’mon.

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[–] jpeeler link

A somewhat similar situation happened to me in that my Google payments account was frozen, supposely due to fraud. This caused me to be unable to buy a new project fi compatible phone or do any other payments, except... My monthly Fi bills continued to be processed as usual. I tried escalating with Fi support and filing a BBB complaint (which at least got looked at, but did not resolve my account standing). Finally, I contacted a Googler that commented here on HN and luckily they were sympathetic and fixed the issue. If I hadn't have been able to get my account in good standing and I was forced to start over with a new Google account, I would have switched to an iPhone. Sometimes I wonder if I should have switched anyway.

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[–] akimball link

Not an improvement.

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[–] pasbesoin link

Pre-Google-Fi and into Google Fi, I considered the various "un-appeal-able" account scenarios with Google products, including how they sometimes tied back to loss of access to other Google products including one's Gmail account and basically any access to the baseline Google account at all.

When I signed up for my first Android phone, I created a new Gmail address for it.

When I decided to give Fi a ago -- and get a discount on a Nexus 5x -- I looked at how Fi commandeered any already-connected Google Voice number -- in a one-way process, by the way -- and used a Gmail account that did not have Google Voice set up. And kept my other number active on another carrier, by the way -- I wasn't porting it.

Fi can be pretty good, when it works. Google account management, on the other hand, remains a minefield of irreversible pitfalls.

I might suggest to Google, that they try re-introducing some orthogonality into their accounting structures. But, I'm tired of suggesting things to Google; they've had more than enough time to get -- or buy -- a clue.

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[–] 013a link

One thing I can suggest; if you're deep into google products, you should be paying the $5/month for a G-Suite account with your own domain. You get access to better business-class support. Fi is now also supported on G-Suite accounts.

It's a no-brainer. It sucks that their personal account support is so bad, but there is a solution.

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[–] dragonwriter link

> if you're deep into google products, you should be paying the $5/month for a G-Suite account with your own domain. You get access to better business-class support.

And lose access to the consumer offerings for which Google isn't prepared to offer enterprise management features and/or support, or which just don't fit into their enterprise vision. Every time a new consumer service or feature product is released, complaints start from G-Suite customers about not having it.

Which isn't a big deal, perhaps, if it's not a service with interacts with others on your account, so you can just use it on a different account, but for things that you want to integrate together splitting different services to different accounts because not all of them are supported on G-Suite makes the services on both accounts worse than they would otherwise be.

Google One is the offering directed at this, though I don't know how good the support component is.

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[–] mdp link

This isn't much of a solution. I had a G-Suite account with them when I had an issue with Payments. I ended up with a suspended payments account all the same and no support via the G Suite support package (let's be honest, at $5 you get what you pay for). G Suite support will help you with things like problems with your email, but the Payments team is totally separate. Take a look at the support page - https://gsuite.google.com/support/ - it's pretty clear that they aren't going to help you clear things up outside of their specific area.

Same for Google Play store as a developer; didn't matter that I had a $5 account, different department so back to robo-emails you go.

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[–] LameRubberDucky link

I would agree with this, if you're using Google's personal free products for running a business. Get locked and you're in real trouble.

But Fi is a service that the customer is paying for, they should not be subject to automatic lockouts without any way to get it resolved other than to "start fresh."

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[–] goldenkey link

Sure but there has been a huge complaint ongoing for years: G-Suite accounts cant make YouTube comments and do other things that normal accounts can. Google has said that they won't be fixing this regression.

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[–] 90minuteAPI link

The parent post concerns me as I use Google Domains. Now I'm hoping that also brings me up to that level of support.

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[–] lashkari link

Except that many services (e.g., Family Libraries, Family Link, etc.) don't work with G Suite accounts.

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[–] buro9 link

I've had such bad experiences on G Suite I've just gone back to the consumer Google One world of regular Gmail: https://medium.com/@buro9/one-account-all-of-google-4d292906...

I would not recommend G Suite to anyone who is a consumer or household any longer.

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[–] 013a link

That article, despite being only a month old, is out of date or just wrong.

Yes, none of the "Family" products are available for G-Suite. That being said, all of the functionality beyond saving money is there with G-Suite. The saving money part is important, don't get me wrong. But sharing photos, seeing your "family's" (aka, your G-Suite organization's) stuff, etc, that's all there. Its just packaged differently, and in a way that's more expensive and substantially more powerful.

YouTube Music is definitely available on G-Suite. So is Google Fi; I'm on a Fi device on my G-Suite account right now (they enabled this early 2018 IIRC). Google Spaces is a discontinued product that isn't available for anyone.

The Google Home and Assistant is the only area today within G-Suite I've seen really weird behavior because I use a G-Suite account. Things like accessing your calendar just don't work right, and often result in errors. That's a very valid issue.

There are sacrifices to both approaches. I will gladly pay the extra money to, in turn, get access to a higher tier of account level support, unlimited storage, and the custom domain name. There are also a few products that are only available to G-Suite customers. CloudSearch is a single omnibar search service that does deep, filterable search on every resource in your G-Suite across all of their services (Gmail, Calendar, Drive, etc). Vault is also cool; I have rules set up which retain emails indefinitely, so even if I delete them from GMail they're still exportable from Vault. The Google Titan Key was also a hardware product that was only available for G-Suite customers for a while.

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[–] tracker1 link

I don't generally get a response back, but more often than not, a negative tweet on twitter gets a resolution within a day or two.

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[–] ehsankia link

They also have Google One now for 2$ a month.

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[–] efsavage link

> The only suggestion of a solution we’ve been given is that he abandon both his email address and phone number of the past twenty years and start fresh."

I believe that being able to port your number is a legal requirement. It's unlikely a poorly designed billing system is a permanent exception to this.

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[–] astura link

Seems you have to be current on your account to port your number. They aren't, but they also are unable to use Google payments to become current.

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[–] JumpCrisscross link

> Seems you have to be current on your account to port your number

This is illegal:

“Once you request service from a new company, your old company cannot refuse to port your number, even if you owe money for an outstanding balance or termination fee” [1].

Author should report Google Fi to the FCC once the government is back online.

[1] https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/porting-keeping-your-ph...

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[–] undefined link
[deleted]

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[–] notatcomputer68 link

I'm not a lawyer yada yada but it says on my dollar bill that it's legal tender for all debts, public and private.

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[–] walterbell link

Show up at Google HQ security gate with cash in hand and journalist in tow?

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[–] dabockster link

Forget the journalist, just live stream it via a YouTube account with a psuedonym first/last name. Considering how disorganized Google is, I doubt they'd take it down for a good while (if at all).

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[–] walterbell link

Paging Banksy

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[–] EpicBlackCrayon link

Same thing happened to me! I got it fixed by submitting a BBB complaint.

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[–] deburo link

Well, that's pretty damning. I hope this gets an answer from some Googler now that's it's out in the media.

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[–] Someone1234 link

I think the whole crux of the issue is that any one Googler wouldn't have enough oversight to answer.

Google is too complex of an organization, and the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. So issues become lost between CS, security, and accounting.

I've seen this from the other side. I've also seen it get mitigated by giving someone (customer service) ownership of the problem, and giving them enough organizational support to twist arms in other departments as needed.

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[–] jasondclinton link

Actually, former Payments Googler here. I have a pretty good idea what could have happened. I will escalate this internally. And no, it shouldn't require a Googler to fix it; something has gone wrong.

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[–] ericthebell link

Any tips for the rest of us stuck in the same "account suspended without explanation" purgatory? The article describes my own experience since November (and still stuck despite many emails and calls).

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[–] Mindwipe link

There are way too many stories like this around. Something goes wrong a scary amount of the time, and Google just have no useful process. It desperately needs a centralised "customer service" team who have the power to override literally anyone else in Google to sort this shit out.

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[–] bradknowles link

Approximately 42% of the 17 million left hands are unaware that any other hands of any sort exist, much less any of the 23 million right hands.

About 71% of the 17 million right hands are not aware that any other hands exist, much less the 13 million gripping hands.

See the problem here?

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[–] vvanders link

No, that shouldn't not be the support path to escalation because you know someone well connected at Google and/or cause an outrage.

It's not that hard, invest in customer service, understand that not everything can be handled by an algorithm and you won't have these classes of issues. Is it expensive? Sure. At some point though you're going to need some system that allows human intervention when things have gone off the rails.

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[–] imichael link

I wonder how it really works. My first thought is to have a dedicated credit card used only to pay for my google services, kept in a drawer at home (and not uses for any other online service) and therefore unlikely (less likely?) to be used fraudulently. But I have three cards known to Google Payments. If any one of them has an issue would Google lock my account? I hope not.

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[–] burtonator link

Google never became evil , it just became senile.

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[–] yisiliu link

> The only suggestion of a solution we’ve been given is that he abandon both his email address and phone number of the past twenty years and start fresh.

rofl thanks google you at least showed us you would treat everyone equally, and no exceptions even for your employees

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[–] dabockster link

> even a well-intentioned agent doesn’t get the same answer from the “security department” twice

So you've gotten agents fired? Or does the security department flip flop with a different answer each time?

I've thankfully never had to deal with Google support, so I'm curious about your experiences.

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[–] monochromatic link

Calling it support is too generous. If Google’s automated systems can’t help you, you’re entering a world of pain.

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[–] undefined link
[deleted]

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[–] iandanforth link

The lede here is somewhat burried:

"From what I’ve since learned, if a card in your Google Pay is stolen, or someone uses your Payments account fraudulently, or anything happens that leads to a security flag being raised, it can lead to your Google Payments account being frozen.

...

If you can’t use Google Payments, you can’t pay for Google Fi

This, fundamentally, is why I can’t suggest anyone use Project Fi anymore.

...

Getting this fixed is actually impossible, and I say that as someone who really, truly, loves solving problems and has made a living off getting phone agents to want to help me.

We have submitted copies of his ID four times, my ID twice, multiple photos of credit cards, and various credit card statements. We’ve talked to agents and supervisors at Google Payments and Google Fi. No one is empowered to do anything, and even a well-intentioned agent doesn’t get the same answer from the “security department” twice.

I’ve since found hundreds of comments and Reddit threads from people having similar experiences, with almost zero positive conclusions.

The only suggestion of a solution we’ve been given is that he abandon both his email address and phone number of the past twenty years and start fresh."

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[–] wittedhaddock link

We wrote an article describing how this can be done, we file complaints with the FCC for our customers against their former carriers all the time: https://www.communityphone.org/2018-08-07-how-to-file-a-comp...

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[–] jessriedel link

This Reddit thread concluded that because a T-mobile account was suspended for non-payment and the number is unportable while suspended that the customer was out of luck.

https://www.reddit.com/r/tmobile/comments/4wotw8/tmobile_won...

I don't see how that matters legally. The FCC requirement doesn't make portability conditional on some account status defined by the carrier. But IANAL.

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[–] pxeboot link

Since T-Mobile holds the primary numbers for Google Fi accounts, going from T-Mobile to Fi legally isn't a port, just a change in T-Mobiles billing system.

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[–] toomuchtodo link

Yes. You’ll want to force a port from Google to AT&T or Verizon, and then back to T-Mobile if that’s who you want to end up with.

If your port is delayed or denied, file a complaint with the FCC, as this starts the regulatory review clock ticking.

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[–] slenk link

Does that clock still tick with the government shutdown?

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[–] mattnewton link

IANAL but I assume so. It’s just the enforcement that would wait.

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[–] toomuchtodo link

I don’t know. I’d assume no.

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[–] jessriedel link

I was just using T-Mobile as another example. OP wants to move from Google Fi to something else, and the reddit poster wanted to move from T-Mobile to something else. I wasn't suggesting a port from T-Mobile to Fi.

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[–] jessriedel link

> Google Fi won’t restore service or allow your number to be ported out until the bill is paid, so around and around we go.

I'm surprised this is legal. Number portability isn't something phone companies offer out of the kindness of their heart; it's required by law. Does the law really allow them to hold the number hostage as part of a payment dispute?

EDIT: Nope, this is illegal:

> Once you request service from a new company, your old company cannot refuse to port your number, even if you owe money for an outstanding balance or termination fee

https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/porting-keeping-your-ph...

I looks like the OP should file a complaint (and if necessary sue?) over this point.

Indeed, this is so clear cut it makes me doubt the OP's story. Does Google Fi say they do this anywhere?

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[–] wpietri link

I don't think engineering is the problem here. As an example, Toyota, a very engineering-driven company, is also famous for customer focus.

I think the problem is that Google is mostly about selling users' eyeballs to their real customers, advertisers. That's not a business of making individual users happy; it's essentially statistical in nature. With a search engine, if something works for 80 or 90% of people, that's great. If it's bad for the rest, well, tough luck for them. It's very hard to go from that to seeing each individual as valuable and important.

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[–] ehsankia link

it costs $xxK to buy a car. It costs 0$ to use Gmail, Drive, Youtube, etc. These two are not gonna have the same level of customer support. Fi is a paid service, and I do expect it to have a better support (which in my own experience, they do), but to compare Google as a whole to Toyota doesn't seem fair.

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[–] wpietri link

Fair or not, I think it's accurate. If it costs $0 to use something, you're probably not the customer. You're the product.

I agree Fi is different, and I think it's reasonable for you to want better support. I'm saying that since Google is not used to lines of business where they actually have to care about every user, I'm saying it's unsurprising you won't get it.

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[–] dhimes link

Your parent's point though is that with the free offerings, you're not the customer. Google's advertisers are.

With the paid offerings you are the customer and comparing Google's CS to Toyota's or anybody else's is entirely fair.

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[–] ehsankia link

To which I agree. Fi should and (normally) does have much much better customer support than average free Google products.

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[–] walterbell link

> That's not a business of making individual users happy; it's essentially statistical in nature.

Good point. Could telecom service (Project Fi) for individuals be moved to a different division of Alphabet?

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[–] undefined link
[deleted]

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[–] hogu link

I have friends at Google that are L5. When my AdWords account was suspended (long story but if you Google AdWords banned my hackernoom article explains) one of them tried to file a ticket on my behalf. Went nowhere. As far as I can tell internal actions like that go the same route as tickets that I file as a normal person. So don't let having googler friends give you a false sense of security.

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[–] kxrm link

You nailed the issue for me, the problem is that these software approaches to customer service always assume that the service is 100% not the problem and that the customer is the one causing the problem.

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[–] r00fus link

> Despite their size and breadth, they still don't understand customer support.

Cue Larry Page's view on customer support circa 2000, and it still makes sense. Leaders fundamentally don't change views like that, and it impacts the organization - look at Zuckerberg's formative views on privacy.

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[–] hn_throwaway_99 link

I didn't previously know what Larry Page's view on customer support circa 2000 was:

But while it's easy to scoff at Page's quirks—his odd obsessions, his unrealistic expectations, his impatience for a future dangling out of immediate reach—sometimes his seemingly crazy ideas wind up creating breakthrough innovations, and skeptical Googlers wind up admitting Page was right, after all. That was the reaction in 2003 when Denise Griffin, the person in charge of Google's small customer-support team, asked Page for a larger staff. Instead, he told her that the whole idea of customer support was ridiculous. Rather than assuming the unscalable task of answering users one by one, Page said, Google should enable users to answer one another's questions. The idea ran so counter to accepted practice that Griffin felt like she was about to lose her mind. But Google implemented Page's suggestion, creating a system called Google Forums, which let users share knowledge and answer one another's customer-support questions. It worked, and thereafter Griffin cited it as evidence of Page's instinctive brilliance.

https://www.wired.com/2011/03/mf-larrypage/

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[–] gregd link

Yeah but it doesn't work.

It's one thing to be able to "answer questions". It's an entirely other thing to have access rights to actually solve a problem and the authority to do so.

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[–] yaleman link

Worse still, the forums are full of spammers, phishing and malware links.

I've posted in the past and had nothing but fake call centres and phishing links posted, which eventually get removed, but I did click on some of them (in sandboxed malware-analysis browsers) and it took a lot of searching and knowledge to realise that the numbers were fake - and I work in IT secops.

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[–] PavlovsCat link

Good engineering, just like good customer service, is super easy if you put integrity first and don't compromise it. Don't grow beyond your capabilities to handle your stuff with integrity, done.

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[–] rroblak link

Google is, fundamentally, an engineering company. Despite their size and breadth, they still don't understand customer support. Their approach is to use software to solve problems, and they insist on doing so even when it's clear that software isn't up to the task.

Unfortunately, customer support is a hard problem. Despite all of the advances in NLP, I still abhor automated customer support systems when I have a complex issue. Just let me talk to a human.

Google long ago ran the numbers on providing human customer support and realized it's not the sort of ultra-scalable business function that they like to invest in. Rather, they'd like to believe that they can build software systems that don't require human customer support. As an end user, this feels like too much hubris and not enough empathy. It may work from the perspective of a product manager looking at percentages on a dashboard, but it sucks as someone in the real world trying to get something done with one of their products that's not functioning as it should.

I use the full suite of Google Products, including Project/Google Fi. This article describes one of my nightmares— getting locked out of my Google account. I'm fortunate that I have good friends that work at Google that could help out in such a worst-case scenario. This blogger is fortunate, too. Undoubtedly, some Googler will read this post and help them out.

But the average person isn't so lucky. If you're Jane or Joe Schmoe in Middle America, you're going to be screwed when your Google account goes haywire. I've had friends whose Google accounts have gotten into weird states that prevented them from using Google services for no obvious reason. I suspect this is due to an unfortunate consequence of Conway's Law [1] at work in Google's identity implementation.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway%27s_law

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[–] 8ytecoder link

Every time a comment like this comes up I say the same thing: Your email address is very very valuable and everything in the digital world is tied to it one way or the other. Own the domain so you can port it to another provider. Keep a copy of your emails somewhere - a mail app on your laptop?

If you use drive, sync it fully to a laptop.

It's not just Google, any service - paid or free, can and will shutdown your account. It's something you have to assume will happen to you - not just some random stranger on the internet. I don't know about you but I definitely don't want to deal with losing all my digital documents, pictures and most important all my accounts by losing my email address.

No one should be complacent about this.

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[–] EduardoBautista link

You know, I currently use my own domain for email.

Maybe I am paranoid, but I worry about that when I die, my domain will expire, and then someone will register that domain and set up email accounts with it.

They would be able to access so many services that I would have left open after my death. I still don't know how to handle this apart from leaving a fund to someone I trust to have my domain renewed for a few more decades after my death.

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[–] dstaley link

You don't even need to die for this to be an issue. Your registrar could just screw up and sell your domain to someone else. Or your registrar could have a security breach resulting in your domain being transferred. There's a myriad of ways the "own your domain" solution could fail, so it's really about which risks you're willing to take.

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[–] EduardoBautista link

Yes, I have thought about this as well.

One of the reasons I am in the process of moving all of my domains to Gandi is because they appear to be the only reputable domain registrar that supports U2F. I take security extremely seriously when it comes to my domains.

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[–] techsupporter link

> One of the reasons I am in the process of moving all of my domains to Gandi is because they appear to be the only reputable domain registrar that supports U2F.

I use Gandi and am quite pleased with their security settings. Not only is my account secured with an absurdly long password, I have U2F enabled and I have enabled the IP restriction list so that authentication only succeeds when coming from one of them. They even fixed my only quibble. In the past, if I logged in with valid credentials but from an unlisted IP, the error message would say "you're coming from an IP that's not permitted." Now the message for all types of failures--bad password, wrong IP, incorrect TOTP code--is the same so an attacker can't confirm valid credentials.

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[–] mneubrand link

Namecheap now finally supports TOTP and U2F is on their roadmap. I was close to dropping them before this recent development but it seems like they finally take this seriously

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[–] JChase2 link

I always recommend namecheap when I can. Even though I technically work for a competitor lol. They're working on U2F: https://www.namecheap.com/blog/true-totp-2fa-and-u2f-are-com...

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[–] steelframe link

> I worry about that when I die, my domain will expire, and then someone will register that domain and set up email accounts with it.

The good news is that you will be dead, and so you won't be worrying about anything at all.

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[–] sbov link

Your spouse might though, considering they could rack up charges on shared debit and credit cards.

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[–] komali2 link

I bought my domain through domains.google.com though, lol

Though, my nameservers are on bluehost. My biggest issue is figuring out other aspects of google-tied-ness. For example, everyone has my @gmail email right now. Websites, newsletters, contacts, everybody. Untying that will take a while. Also, I use Inbox for organizing my mail, and I like that a lot. I need to figure out a way to get similar functionality while using a me@example.com domain... either forwarding or something... but then how do I send mail FROM me@example.com?

Mail stuff is so obscure to me, I'd love to sit down and learn it sometime but there's always something "more pressing" for a work project or whatever for me to learn.

EDIT: So, I decided to give it another go. Seems impossible through Inbox, but through gmail I found a thing under settings to "add another email address I own" that lets me input manually the SMTP information that bluehost shows for my email. Might be working, who knows. I'm stuck waiting for google's "verify" email to turn up in my bluehost web inbox.

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[–] etimberg link

I just started the process of moving from gmail to an email on a custom domain through https://www.migadu.com/en/index.html. The setup process was pretty painfree and they provide very detailed setup instructions.

I haven't set my gmail to forward to the new email yet. I've spent the last month or so unsubscribing from a lot of email newsletters. Once I get the mail volume down even further, I'll setup gmail to autoforward and then give out my new email to those who need it.

I haven't yet found a Google Calendar substitute but that's lower priority right now.

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[–] jnieminen link

iCloud calendar or hosting your own think on nextcloud?

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[–] cortesoft link

What if someone hijacks your domain?

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[–] pascalxus link

Yes, and you can't trust yahoo mail either. I lost mine about 8 years ago for completely unknown reasons. they just randomly shut it down one day. I was completely appalled and vowed to never ever use another yahoo product as long as i live. I wonder how many other people had a similar experience.

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[–] ndnxhs link

Its not particularly hard to back up your google data. The hard part is switching emails when the old one gets suddenly taken from you.

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[–] 2Ccltvcm link

Get your own domain and start using it for email. Auto-forward your existing emails to your new email provider. Over time your use of your primary email will asymptotically reach zero. After a few years you will realize that if the original email disappeared overnight, nothing of value would be lost. You have to start the switch TODAY.

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[–] ndnxhs link

Yeah thats what I have done and its not too bad. The one question I have is what email to I put for my domain stuff. If my domain name provider suspends my domain for some reason how do I contact them if my email has also gone down?

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[–] cesnja link

A phone. Or some other email along with providing a way of identifying yourself.

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[–] lvs link

I agree -- this single point of failure is incredibly scary. There must be a legal mechanism established to ensure consumers are protected. This is an inevitable technological cycle within markets:

1) a technology arises

2) usage spreads across consumers

3) consumers become deeply reliant on it

4) megacorps coalesce dominating market power over it

5) consumers demand protections from the government

We have to get to step 5.

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[–] mdpopescu link

I would love to get protection from the government. What company does that? /s

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[–] akimball link

Academi.com will do it, if you are the high bidder.

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[–] davchana link

The easiest way to mirror gmail, i have heard & am using is, to set a filter in gmail, forward every mail received to Hotmail. So, any point, Hotmail inbox is a pretty segregated but exact copy of Gmail

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[–] clairity link

so you give two privacy ignoring companies all of your email (as well as portions of your email correspondents) instead of one? is control and some measure of privacy not worth the $50 or whatever to set up a paid account somewhere like https://www.protonmail.com/ ?

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[–] davchana link

Your sarcastic comment is totally unwanted. Nowhere I talked about Privacy, just that its very unlikely of a user to get locked out of accessing all old emails at two major provides at same time. The thread itself is about Google, and the comment I replied to is worried about getting locked out of Emails at Google.

What are protonmail policies for unwanted user? Lockout? Backup?

$50 for you might be a whatever amount, but in few places it is a lot, and not desirable or able to spend this much on email.

By any chance do you work or connected with protonmail? I am connected with neither of all three, but have accounts at all three, just like anybody else.

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[–] a11595 link

average salary in Kiev - $300/month. Sick gramma on food stamps. Guy bankrupt from cancer. Billions of poor indian and chinese (usa population is 350mil). 15yo student on $20/week allowance. Africa.

So if we round up to most of the world, "is privacy worth a week's to a month's income?" The answer to your question is no. Privacy of their useless emails is not, and nether is mine, upper 5% of USA. but I run my own domain and email service, for $20/year, not use google.

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[–] 2Ccltvcm link

Do you want to keep your photos and videos forever? You have to take your data in your own hands. At the very minimum keep an offline backup of things you care about.

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[–] dddddaviddddd link

I use a simple getmail[0] script to download all my Gmail automatically, and I use an address on my own domain too. For Google Photos however I haven't found a great backup solution, especially one that can work on Linux/FreeBSD.

[0] http://pyropus.ca/software/getmail/

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[–] benwaffle link
[–] dstaley link

Photobak is really close, but Google's API apparently has several issues making it not a true solution. IIRC you can't download the original uploaded bytes, and you can't get the original EXIF data.

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[–] dstaley link

Stories like this make me incredibly wary about the future of my Google account. I've been using it for almost twelve years. It has a copy of every photo/video I've taken for almost eight years. It's what I use to download apps, listen to music, and pay for things, and get around. I'd be absolutely devastated if I suddenly lost it. I've been planning for a while now a sort of contingency plan where I regularly backup my emails and photos, but from what I've read even that's difficult to do.

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[–] magduf link

I just went to western Europe (Germany specifically), and spend 15 Euros for phone service there. It's simple: I just bought a SIM card at a shop (O2) and put it in my Verizon phone. I got a prepaid card that had unlimited text/calls (within Germany only), and 3GB of data, which was far more than enough for my 2 weeks there.

Cellular service is much cheaper in Europe than in the US, so you might as well take advantage of it. International calling plans for American phones are horrendously overpriced.

Of course, the downside is that I couldn't call or text anyone in the States, but who cares? That's what apps are for. I was able to talk to and message friends/family in the US using Facebook messenger and LINE. While on my hotel's free WiFi, my VoIP calls cost me nothing.

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[–] rconti link

In Germany, they want your passport and an address to register a SIM. It's not one of the worst countries for buying a SIM, but it's not one of the best. Last time it took me trips to 3 or 4 stores and at least 90 minutes to get a SIM.

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[–] Zak link

This is a fairly new requirement; it used to be possible to buy a SIM anonymously in Germany. Apparently some politician said "but terrorists" and put a stop to that.

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[–] 2sk21 link

In India, you can't even get a SIM unless you have local identification.

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[–] gusmd link

The same 3 GB of data would have costed you $30 with Fi (or less if you were already near/over the 6 GB threshold). Given that 15 EUR is about 18 USD, you essentially saved 12 USD.

Personally, I would have gladly paid $12 to not have to go to a store in foreign country, switch SIM cards, have to worry about hitting the 3 GB limit, lose the ability to call or text anyone in the states, etc. But to each, their own.

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[–] magduf link

>The same 3 GB of data would have costed you $30 with Fi. Given that 15 EUR is about 18 USD, you essentially saved 12 USD.

First, EUR15 is about USD$17.25 for me, or it was when I was there. 1.2 is a lousy exchange rate.

Anyway, that quibble aside, saving $12 is more that worth it: having to use Fi at home would mean having to use the T-Mobile network, which in the US is absolutely horrible. I've used T-Mo in the past, as well as Sprint, and they're both lousy; they just don't have very good signal quality, especially if you get outside a major metro area.

>Personally, I would have gladly paid $12 to not have to go to a store in foreign country,

Personally, I would gladly pay $12/month to use a cellular network that doesn't suck in the US.

>have to worry about hitting the 3 GB limit

They have prepaid plans there with lots of different data allowances: 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 5, etc. Pick whatever works for you. I didn't come close to using my 3GB, and could have saved even more money by getting one of the smaller plans.

>lose the ability to call or text anyone in the states,

As I said before, I had no trouble using apps like LINE to do this, and was frequently sending texts and photos to people that way while I was walking around. If your friends are too stupid to use a messaging app instead of SMS, then I can't help you. SMS is the worst way of texting. But, to each their own.

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[–] OxO4 link

Note that this option may have some limitations depending on the country: Turkey blocks the IMEI of unregistered devices after 120 days, so if you plan to travel there multiple times, you may be out of luck (AFAIK only residents can register their device). So it is definitely worth checking the rules before traveling to a country.

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[–] magduf link

Turkey is an authoritarian country run by a near-dictator, so I'm not sure this is a very good example.

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[–] brewdad link

My son will be traveling to Europe this summer for a school trip. He'll be spending time in 6 or 7 different countries (UK, France, Germany, Switzerland and a couple more I can't remember right now)

Is there a better option than Fi for this type of trip?

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[–] wheels link

Roaming charges inside of the EU were eliminated in 2017, so a single prepaid SIM (readily available for a few dollars) would do him well inside of the EU. Make sure that he has a phone that's not vendor locked. That doesn't include Switzerland, and may not include the UK by the summer, but the SIM will still work there, just with additional charges (which are usually fairly reasonable).

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[–] pxeboot link

On a recent trip to Europe, I found this prepaid SIM a much better value than Fi:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B01FI1JW72/ref=cm_cr_arp_mb_b...

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[–] falsedan link

Any prepaid sim will let you roam, if you’re really worried get one from Three and it will work in the states too. Local calls will be routed back to the country where the sim came from, so actually using the phone for traditional voice calls will be pricey. Lebara UK has a cheap plan with 100 international minutes and a few gigs of data for like £10/30 days (last time I used it) and can be bought from any phone shop

edit I checked the Lebara data rates and it’s all included in the normal quota, except for Switzerland at £15/MB, so... maybe not

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[–] yaleman link

I've been to Europe a few times lately and I'm a massive fan of Vodafone's coverage and offerings. The only issue I had was the lack of tethering on a prepaid SIM, but the free wifi everywhere I went was normally good enough to use for anything I needed.

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[–] theintern link

Definitely get a cheap sim card wherever he lands. The EU abolished all roaming charges for data and calls so he'll be able to use whatever data and calls he has in all EU countries.

Some countries have extremely good value pre paid sim cards with 20 gigs of data often coming in under €20 a month.

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[–] pbalau link

No roaming charges between members of EU. So, if he lands first in UK, don't buy the sim from there

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[–] lowercased link

picked up a one month sim in romania for $7. 20 gig of 4g data, 1000 min of call, unlimited text. calls were supposedly limited to romania but i called usa a few times without issue.

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[–] fernandotakai link

i to the same whenever i travel abroad -- be it USA (i use t-mobile) or europe (went twice, used o2 twice). it's a lot less complicated.

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[–] tracker1 link

One of the bigger reasons I switched to Verizon was specifically coverage. There are a lot of areas (wyoming, dakotas, parts of idaho and northern utah and nevada) that I drive through where Verizon is the only carrier with any coverage.

I couldn't be convinced to switch to Fi, and frankly given the horror stories, not sure that I trust google should I ever fall afoul of their platform exclusion and zero support or transparency.

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[–] bduerst link

Verizon is primarily a CDMA network, which doesn't have coverage internationally unless you pay extra. Same with ATT.

We switched to Fi because we travel to Europe frequently and Fi doesn't charge extra for it, the phones just work when you land.

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[–] undefined link
[deleted]

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[–] tracker1 link

I don't even have a passport currently. If I did travel, I'm more likely to buy a throwaway cell with a different account and add the number to my google voice account dialing...

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[–] undefined link
[deleted]

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[–] bduerst link

If you're stuck in rural US, then you should use Verizon for it's older CDMA networks. Spending extra money and going through the hassle of getting another phone while traveling is a personal preference it seems, but for people who do travel it's one less thing to worry about.

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[–] 1stranger link

CDMA is going away. Verizon is supposed to drop 3G by end of this year.

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[–] bduerst link

I'll believe it when it happens since Verizon is only leasing the towers in rural areas. Also, just how many accounts on HN do you have?

- tracker1

- 1stranger

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[–] hinkley link

I got out of mobile development because of the dark abyss that was payments from the carriers. None of the places I worked at ever knew how big the next check was going to be and why it never matched up with our metrics.

I used to describe them as 'animals eating their own young'. VC money goes into a company, mobile carrier gets all the profits (and often, thousands of hours of free QA), company craters.

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[–] stevesimmons link

Also, use a dual SIM phone. Buy a PAYG SIM at your destination and use it for data. Then you remain contactable at your primary number.

I got a dual SIM phone three years ago (One Plus in my case), best thing ever. It's also one reason why I won't consider using iPhone.

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[–] sithadmin link

I abandoned Fi after a trip to western Europe, where I was billed for 6 GB of usage in a single day on one of my data-only SIM cards, despite that the device the SIM was installed in (a 4G hotspot) registered only 200MB of usage that day.

Support was completely unhelpful, and after escalation reported back that the Fi team has zero visibility into chargebacks from their carrier partners and ergo could not diagnose the cause of the usage discrepancy. The lack of accountability on Fi's part, in addition to various annoyances (handset tendency to select Sprint coverage despite poor performance; handset tendency to override manual carrier selection to the detriment of service reliability; generally worse reliability and coverage than my previous carrier) led me to move back to Verizon. I pay an arm and a leg for my service, but at least it's highly reliable and available.

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[–] fastball link

Email is a federated system.

If you don't like how Google handles it, run your own mail server.

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[–] hn_throwaway_99 link

That's kind of a ridiculous statement these days. It's a bit like saying "Worried about e coli contamination in your food? Run your own farm."

These days, running a mail server is a complicated business, and the very fact that you ARE running your own server makes it much, much more likely that all the other mail servers consider you a spam relay unless you are very, very careful about how you have configured things.

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[–] username223 link

This is a pet peeve. SMTP goes to insane lengths to ensure that messages are never lost, but spam filters have broken those guarantees. I don't manage my own SMTP server, but my mail is hosted on a personal domain not backed by GMail, and I can never be sure if it has been delivered.

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[–] aaomidi link

Companies like google shouldn't be allowed to just ban someone's account and leave it at that. We actually need to regulate how OUR data is handled and managed by companies. Google thinks just because they provide an email service, they own all the emails in their service. This should not be the case and with all our reliance on cloud services, we need to be assured that our accounts are safe and we won't be denied access over stuff that isn't in our control.

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[–] kevinflo link

I tried to do the same during a bout of extended international travel. I popped out the fi sim once to try a super cheap local unlimited data sim (some countries are great for this), only to find out afterwards that it killed the fi pairing, and that re-pairing is not possible while abroad (tried VPNs etc., no dice). Your only method to get paired again is to either fly to the states (Hawaii), or to ship the phone to someone in the states and have them ship it back. Ended up having to go months without my main cell service, although months later it did somehow pair again while I was in Japan.

Keep in mind that you'd be just as out of luck if you wanted to switch phones while traveling, like if your primary was lost or stolen. For that reason, I canceled fi immediately upon returning to the states and strongly caution anyone I know against fi for extended travel.

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[–] lwf link

Weird, I haven't had that experience -- I've switched between Fi and my work SIM several times while abroad using the chooser in my Pixel 3's settings… Did you perhaps somehow reset your eSIM?

Edit: ah, you were using a physical SIM. Mildly ironic that you'd have a worse experience "re-pairing" than with an eSIM.

Related anecdote: at 34c3 last year, I was able to activate Fi while in Germany, but 6 months later, no matter how many agents I talked to (none of whom identified being in Europe as the problem), I wasn't able to reactivate it in Europe. This was because I had paused my service and switched phones, and they apparently implemented checks to prevent activation outside the USA.

Or, I was the accidental beneficiary of the various GSM hacking going on at Congress, and it never was supposed to work in the first place.

Curious if it'd be effectual (although impractical) to use an AT&T femtocel to activate while abroad…

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[–] iammiles link

This has been my experience as well. Last year I went on a trip through Morocco and the UK. Never worried about my usage despite using services like Spotify and Google Maps. Got a bill that I would expect with traveling within the States.

My normal day-to-day has me on WiFi the majority of the time so my phone bill usually comes out to about $36 a month.

Edit: For the curious, I've been using Fi with a Pixel 2 since the phone was released.

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[–] martin_bech link

In Denmark 36usd will get you unlimited calls, texting, 40gb of data and worldwide roaming.. seems like the same is priced at 80usd at google fi?

The US is a wierd place..

https://www.3.dk/abonnementer/mobil/40-gb-mobilabonnement-in...

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[–] kung_fu_jive link

I can relate to this. I was in Japan for two weeks and the international data worked flawlessly for me. I was diligent about tracking my usage and didn't see any charges out of line with my expectations. It made navigating the public transit a cakewalk. I'm in the same boat.

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[–] soperj link

Why not download the maps before hand? Whenever I go abroad, I just download the maps in advance, and have no issue at all with just being on airplane mode.

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[–] kung_fu_jive link

That is a great suggestion. I did rely on more than just transit information however. Using translate, looking up services and reviews for services, reserving a rental vehicle for two days, etc. Some of my needs couldn't be anticipated such as meeting a bartender in Osaka and being recommended a Japanese band to check out. Researching how to purchase tickets was something I didn't anticipate needing to do while planning the trip.

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[–] soperj link

You can actually download an offline translation file as well for google translate.

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[–] propogandist link

You cannot download offline maps for Japan, at least on Google Maps

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[–] soperj link

Here maps you can.

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[–] yebyen link

Because the data doesn't cost anything different than when I'm at home. Do you always do that when you're at home too? That's very conscientious of you, I can tell you that my data bill is already under $5-10/mo most months, there is just WiFi everywhere so I don't always go to the trouble.

The fact is that the calling rates are very reasonable by default while traveling abroad, and there are no extras charged for data or text. I rarely travel internationally, but not to be held back by my phone! There are no special travel packages to buy, it just works wherever you go.

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[–] xster link

Depends on the individual's travel style I guess. I'm a very spontaneous unplanned type traveler so I use a lot more than just navigation data during the day. Things like venues' reviews, event tickets, hotel bookings, train tickets, travel blogs, local payment apps, rideshare apps, answering VoIP calls/messages/voicemails from home number etc.

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[–] raz32dust link

It's all good until you have to deal with Google support

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[–] codereflection link

I can relate to that. I spoke with 3 different support agents and got 3 different answers to my problem.

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[–] faitswulff link

Why not T-Mobile?

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[–] sithadmin link

Fi negotiated better terms for international roaming with TMO than TMO gives its own customers. TMO customers are rate-throttled abroad; Fi is not.

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[–] toomuchtodo link

But I can get a TMO customer rep on the phone in under 60 seconds. And just did, moments ago, to get an unlock code for an iPhone I sent with a friend who moved out of the US.

Trade offs!

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[–] ForTheTimeBeing link

My wife and I just traveled to Korea and Japan for the better part of December. And I have a Google Fi plan while she is with T-mobile. My service was superior in several ways:

1. Better and more reliable coverage 2. Roaming surcharges for my (Google Fi) calls where less (albeit, nominally so) at $0.20/min vs $0.25/min 3. While she had some problems enabling her data, the transition of my service in this respect was absolutely seamless (and as just fast as here in the States) 4. Importantly, Google Fi supports tethering abroad whereas T-mobile does not

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[–] atomical link

I'm a T-Mobile customer. I use EasyTether to tether wherever I am.

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[–] disiplus link

wtf USA, blocking tethering in roaming.

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[–] mcrae link

TMO only gives 2G internationally which, while it doesn’t sound terrible, it ends up being unusable in practice. Your experience may vary though I guess.

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[–] teraflop link

T-Mobile's throttling does a great job of highlighting how bloated a lot of modern websites have gotten.

The last time I tried using it overseas, text-heavy sites like HN loaded almost as fast as normal. Reddit was mostly usable, but certain subreddits were painfully slow due to image-heavy custom styles. But try to load an article from a typical news website, and the connection would time out before it managed to render anything.

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[–] chris11 link

It's not a horrible solution though. I'm kind of cheap, I don't want to pay for unlimited data. So I have an inexpensive plan with T-Mobile that gets throttled. But I can still have some internet access for free once I go over my limit.

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[–] andrewvc link

Yes, can confirm. I can't actually load a webpage on their '2G' service anytime I travel to europe.

I suspect that their partners in europe throttle with an algorithm so aggressive it flat-out breaks TCP.

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[–] reificator link

> I can't actually load a webpage on their '2G' service anytime I travel to europe

Remember when web pages were measured in kilobytes? Pepperidge Farms remembers.

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[–] Someone1234 link

That's accurate. You can however pay for international 3G via their "One Plus" upgrade package if you wish, which makes it at least usable.

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[–] mvid link

It’s not true 3G. It shows up in your tab bar as 3G, but it is throttled to 2x what the 2G is, something like .25 Mbps. It makes it marginally useful, but nowhere close to Fi. I’m saying this as someone who runs Fi on an iPhone, using it in a half broken hacky way is still superior to TMo

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[–] zamalek link

I'd bite and switch if there was someone else in America who wasn't truthfully awful in some way. I cannot morally support the likes of Verizon and AT&T. T-Mobile are the good guys, but spotty reception is a more common occurrence than bad support; I haven't had to call support once in two years, but my phone has switched networks multiple times.

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[–] zavi link

It even worked for me flawlessly in China, no extrw VPN software needed.

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[–] jxi link

T-Mobile does it for cheaper than Fi, especially if you have a family plan. I've also heard reports that they have better global coverage than Google Fi due to better negotiated deals with the local companies. For example, Fi doesn't work well in Vietnam whereas T-Mobile does.

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[–] buf link

I just traveled to Japan, the Phil, Bulgaria, San Francisco, and Boston without having to change sim cards or worry about my data situation. I'm going to keep it until someone else can do the same at a lower price.

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[–] monksy link

> It’s too bad the legal system is so intimidating to people because more people doing this might one day wake companies up a little.

That was Peter Thiel's conclusion after the Gawker ordeal. The reason why Gawker did what it did was that it was very difficult to succeed at suing them, and to survive while doing so. (Gawker would put the person suing them on an attack)

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[–] CPLX link

That scenario is literally the exact opposite scenario described here, where an incredibly wealthy and powerful business titan successfully intimidated and destroyed a much smaller and more poorly funded source of journalism because he felt like it.

That, conceptually, is exactly the opposite of using small claims court to get justice from a giant faceless corporation.

People like Peter Thiel have literally never been intimidated by the legal system. They have the resources to exploit and manipulate the legal system, and then lobby to get the laws changed if it doesn't work out for them the regular way.

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[–] monksy link

> funded source of journalism because he felt like it.

"motivated to sue Gawker after they published a 2007 article publicly outing him, headlined "Peter Thiel is totally gay, people". Thiel stated that Gawker articles about others, including his friends, had "ruined people's lives for no reason," "

They publically outed him. They've gone after people who had tried to sue them before. Read the book Conspiracy. (0783118457)

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[–] undefined link
[deleted]

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[–] hojjat12000 link

I have no idea what you just said. To understand that I need to see a lawyer, pay hundreds of dollars to be told what my right is, and how I can proceed. Then probably invest thousands of dollars in a lawsuit. At least that's how I see it. Unless there is an app that you click a button and you sue Google for free that I don't know about.

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[–] CPLX link

I mean, you could look up those things and read a few blog posts and then do them. I’m not a lawyer either it’s not that complicated.

You have to do a little research to figure out how to use the subway system or buy a car too. It’s just another system, isn’t this a board full of people who’ve taught themselves how to handle extraordinarily complex rules based systems?

There’s something about legal stuff that makes people freeze up. Go to the courthouse, ask them, sign up for whatever volunteer lawyer help desk program they have (they almost always do) and figure it out. Takes an afternoon or two.

Use Google. Harness the enemy’s powers against them.

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[–] tracker1 link

Any money spend on the lawsuit itself can be recovered as part of said lawsuit.

Also, Google will probably wind up paying more just for their legal team than you will AND have to pay in the end... if more people did this, they'd be much more likely to improve quality of service. LOTS of paper cuts.

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[–] tedivm link

That's not how it works, at all. Taking someone to small claims court (which is what this would fall under) is trivial compared to what you're saying. Many county court systems even provide checklists to get through it. Last time I took someone to small claims court it cost about $200 in fees.

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[–] CPLX link

She should sue Google. Serious response. This kind of thing is bullshit, and she has a legal right to have the number ported, especially if she’s been willing to pay the bill and has not been able to due to Google’s technical problems.

File a lawsuit for the value of the time she’s had to spend on it and an order to show cause or temporary restraining order type motion for them to release the number to her.

It’s too bad the legal system is so intimidating to people because more people doing this might one day wake companies up a little.

Needless to say this doesn’t contradict the advice to not use the service in the first place.

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[–] netinstructions link

This really hits home. Probably 99.999% of users won't have issues with Google's products / services, but if you're one of the unlucky few, you're helpless.

All you can hope for is to make enough noise on the internet to get a Googler's attention. None of the normal escalation channels work.

My issues with Project Fi / Google Store were not resolved via their online chat, nor their phone support, nor emails to their product support, nor any of my posts on their product support forums, nor any tweets at various Google accounts.

Only after a blog post received attention on Reddit did I get a call from head of support who was able to resolve my issue.

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[–] jahabrewer link

She

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[–] undefined link
[deleted]

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[–] AlexB138 link

Ah, you're correct. I mistook the top poster here, iandanforth, as saying they were the author. Edited.

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[–] AlexB138 link

She's definitely right that the quality of their support has tanked. I've had significant connection issues where people on other carriers have none and their support personnel sent me useless boilerplate questions after I requested support. They then followed up with a multi-page incoherent trouble shooting doc that seemed aimed at their own engineers. One of the worst support experiences I've had, even from Google.

When I first signed up they had fantastic support, now it's worse than what I expect from Comcast.

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[–] Merad link

Close, but not quite. Call centers are designed to make the general support (tier 1) agents effectively flesh and blood robots. These are jobs that might start at $10 an hour if you’re lucky, have little training, and typically very high turnover rates. Even if you get a competent/experienced agent who has literally seen your problem a thousand times and knows that step 3 of the script will always fix it, they will be penalized if they skip the first two steps. Likewise, they will be penalized if they transfer you to tier 2 until they get to the step in the script that says, “transfer to tier 2.” It doesn’t matter if you’ve had this exact problem 5 times before and every instance required tier 2. Doesn’t matter if you were just talking to another agent who ran the whole script and screwed up your transfer. The only way you might get lucky is if you’re lucky enough to have some kind of open case or note on the account that instructs them to transfer you directly.

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[–] roland35 link

That is interesting, I have never actually called them but have used the chat and email interface a few times with pretty good success. I wonder if there is any difference in how the different communication methods are scored?

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[–] Thriptic link

I actually had the polar opposite experience. I had a complex support issue with my pixel 3 delivery and I got irritated because support was constantly escalating and shunting to different teams. While it was a bitch to fix the problem and took awhile, to Google's credit they did eventually do so and went the extra mile for me to extend a promotion and honor a referral code which they certainly didn't need to do.

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[–] andr link

I had a few unsuccessful back and forths with different Fi agents about an issue, and after a couple of weird remarks, I developed the theory that first level agents get their performance scores penalized every time they escalate an issue. I would have them go through the same script over and over for over an hour, and even sometimes admit that I had an issue, but refuse to press that button. I have no hard evidence, but that was my read from the conversations, and would explain the bad support experience overall.

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[–] honkycat link

> We have submitted copies of his ID four times, my ID twice, multiple photos of credit cards, and various credit card statements. We’ve talked to agents and supervisors at Google Payments and Google Fi. No one is empowered to do anything, and even a well-intentioned agent doesn’t get the same answer from the “security department” twice.

This was my EXACT experience with the google store. And Google Cloud gold level support. And google payments.

Google just doesn't make good products. I am consistently astounded at how SHITTY the google home is. It STILL can't make a to-do list.

The Google store sold me a defective pair of headphones. But the defect was due to a design flaw, so the headphones broke AGAIN after they sent me a new one. I then replaced my phone on warranty. Same headphone defect.

So I was going through about one pair of headphones a month for four months[0]. I kept doing it because I enjoyed wasting google's money and abusing their bureaucracy, but I also REALLY wanted a working pair of headphones. Just a total nightmare. I once lost my tempter at the poor guy on the phone, and his response was: "Don't worry about it. You are handling this way better than I would."

0: Sometimes two!

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[–] sandyhatches link

Yeah, this. We've been out of the US for a year now, works everywhere we've been (except Vietnam, though that worked out okay too because Hangouts has calls/text). Can't imagine having to hassle with a new sim every new country, esp with there being 5 of us.

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[–] mcrae link

I've thought about the idea of creating a 'global MVNO'. Like a plan with multiple foreign numbers being bound to one SIM, and being able to roam seamlessly and pay a fixed rate + reasonable usage fees.

For example, someone in finance could have a UK and US number on a single SIM, and easily move back and forth. Or the same for KR and JP or US and MX.

Not sure if there is a large enough market for that.

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[–] rootusrootus link

Is that not normal with other carriers? I've made multiple trips abroad and aside from an occasional delay of a few minutes, my phone just works wherever I go.

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[–] ufo link

For many carriers the roaming costs are so outrageous you may as well pretend that it is not an option.

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[–] bduerst link

Not with major U.S. Carriers. Verizon & ATT nickle and dime you whenever they can, international travel not excluded.

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[–] walterbell link

How much do you pay for international data?

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[–] mcrae link

Despite everything else said, I’ve gotta say that there’s no better feeling than touching down in a new place, turning on your phone, and having it just work.

No stupid voip apps. No managing prepaid balances. No switching sims. Just direct dial and go.

Fi service is incredible for the mobile roaming alone and I’m not quite sure why nobody else can do it. I love it so much and it’s my favorite product. It makes a measurable positive impact in my life.

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[–] fencepost link

I had something similar happen with Uber early on, but it was as simple as the card I had in the account expiring. I'm pretty sure I'd never even actually used the service but had signed up as a "just in case" when I was going to be in an area where it made sense.

For whatever reason when I tried to use it rather than saying that the card had expired they locked my account. By then some of the "fish rots from the head" aspects of the company and its culture had started to get press, so I basically said "Hm, good riddance" and never pursued it.

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[–] Ambroos link

I recently moved abroad and tried to change my phone number in my Uber account. Uber wouldn't let me because it said there was a driver account associated (there wasn't). Their support told me to delete the driver account, but since there wasn't one I was greeted with the driver sign-up that I couldn't complete.

After talking to their support again they deleted my account so I could recreate it.

And then my email, new phone number and old phone number were all marked as in use, yet I could not log in. Over the course of a month it took FIVE emails from my end explaining the situation, with screenshots, each of which was responded to with an "it should be ok now, try again". Only the very last time when I stressed in the email that they really had to escalate it because I had to ask the same question repeatedly without it ever being fixed, they took their time and actually fixed it after a bit over a week.

I know support is hard, especially at scale, but damn Uber that was just baaaaaad.

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[–] rachelbythebay link

Please tell me more if you can.

gmail account matching this one or https://rachelbythebay.com/contact/ - thanks.

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[–] drewg123 link

Email sent with details. Thank you so much for looking into it.

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[–] jonny_eh link

Do you work for Lyft or something?

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[–] saagarjha link

No, but she used to work for Google and Facebook.

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[–] rachelbythebay link

It’s complicated.

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[–] saagarjha link

I read your blog, so I am at least somewhat aware of this ;)

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[–] SamWhited link

Please look up information about Uber's business practices and don't use them. A few minor technical problems are nothing compared to how bad Uber is. Disclaimer: Austin resident who is still mad at both of them for all the massive lies they published all over the city and the huge amount of our money and time they wasted with their stupid campaign to not have to fingerprint drivers.

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[–] strictnein link

> "A few minor technical problems"

If they're literally unable to use a service because of a glitch, it's not a "minor technical problem".

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[–] SamWhited link

So? There are plenty of other alternatives anywhere.

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[–] envy2 link

As a consumer, I don't really care.

I long ago realized that most big companies I do business with have probably done something sketchy in terms of lobbying / dodging regulation, whether they've gotten caught yet or not, and decided to stop losing sleep over it and just use the services that work best for me.

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[–] SamWhited link

This isn't a single mistake, it's a pattern of bad behavior that's been going on for as long as they've been in business.

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[–] dvtrn link

I remember that. It was my last year in Austin and I vowed to never use them either for that same reason and also this one:

https://www.austinchronicle.com/daily/news/2017-03-14/lege-f...

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[–] drewg123 link

I'm going through something similar with Lyft. I got a new pixel phone, had to re-setup my account in an airport added my cards, and was unable to hail a ride due to some "oops, there was a problem, try again" error with both the cards I entered. That was 9 months ago. To this day, I've been unable to use Lyft, and I can't get anybody to really look at the issue.

I'm not sure why they don't want to take my money, but for now, I just use Uber. Hopefully they won't decide they hate met too.

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[–] devicenull link

I've been trying to get Fi to resolve a billing issue.... I'm stuck in a loop with support where they keep asking me for a security code, then the next day they'll respond back saying it expired and they need another one. The codes only seem to be valid for 30m, so I don't have any idea why they keep asking for them...

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[–] Sodman link

Came here to echo the drop in service quality complaint. I joined Fi in the early days. The first time I called in it was about some rather complex (to me) networking issues where the phone was rejecting a WiFi direct connection because it couldn't detect internet service on the other side or some such. I could swear I was talking to a network engineer - he was super helpful and very technical. And that was the guy who just picked up the phone, no escalation needed!

Fast forward a few years and I had a minor question about a special promo they were running, connected to an offshore support team with broken English and copy/paste template responses that may as well have come from a chatbot.

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[–] bane link

I can. I don't want to take away from Google's user hostile practices etc., but Fi is kind of a must have for people who travel overseas frequently but don't stay in a particular country long enough to subscribe to the local mobile system.

You can almost always find a better local deal that works great if you don't move around too much, but Fi is a fantastic "common denominator". Since I've had it I've traveled to...maybe 15 countries in Europe, Central America and Asia and it's worked amazingly well and turned otherwise expensive roaming charges or juggling of sims into normal operations.

It has a weird kind of "global citizen" feel to it that I've never felt any other way. Step off the plane, turn your phone off airplane mode and you're good to go.

Driving across Europe and I received "welcome to <country>" while using Google maps just like driving across the U.S. where it says "welcome to <state>".

It's also pretty cheap, even if you blow your usage caps and try to go unlimited (Google will cap the charges at some point).

If you stay in one place or travel abroad rarely, I'd say skip it, you can get a local provider with more service cheaper. But if you might end up in an unknown country and just don't want the hassle, it's pretty awesome.

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[–] ogn3rd link

I quit a couple years ago when my phone left me in a position where I could not get any connectivity from the TMobile or Sprint towers, nor wifi. They tried to use the excuse that it was tower maintenance yet couldn't explain why wifi connectivity wouldn't work. As someone who is on call 24/7/365 it was unacceptable and I moved to another provider. Their phone support was absolutely useless.

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[–] holidaygoose link

I'm perplexed. I can see hating them for other reasons, but expensive would not be the word I associate with Google Fi. I pay $22 including taxes/fees per month, but it's probably not a good carrier for people who watch a lot of video on their phones.

* they're also probably one of the only honest carriers in terms of taxes/fees. My previous carrier had a much higher tax % which I thought was normal, but now I realize it was just a markup disguised as a tax, so they could continue to offer their "$40/month for everything" price point while actually charging $50/month.

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[–] fakename link

How are you managing such low data use? I easily burned through 1gb in my first week (partly due to my podcast app downloading 400mb -> me changing the settings -> it downloading 200mb the next day -> me finding the right setting to block it from using mobile data).

I've been keeping mobile data turned off unless I explicitly need to use it. I turned it on last night to google something quickly, and it managed to use 60mb.

Can't wait to go back to mintsim after I satisfy the 4 month requirement from their cyber Monday deal.

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[–] holidaygoose link

I'm equally astonished how people can use so much data :)

Like one of the other posters said, I don't stream on phone, and use the wifi at home and at work. I'd love to see the breakdown of data usage (reported by the phones) for heavy users. I wonder if it's like 4GB netflix, 200MB chrome, 100MB Tinder, 20MB Uber, 5MB email.

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[–] magduf link

>How are you managing such low data use?

I have a 5GB plan and rarely use half of it in a month, even though I spend plenty of time using various mobile apps.

It's probably pretty simple: I don't do any streaming: music, podcasts, internet radio, etc.

If you really "need" to stream YouTube videos away from a WiFi hotspot, then you should just pay $150/month and stop complaining.

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[–] a11595 link

I used ~20mb last month. heremaps with offline - faster, less battery. carbonOS rom on my pixel w/ no trace of google anything. read news type sites only on the toilet or in bathtub, so that's on wifi. when I'm out and on the subway or whatever, I'm playing a korean learning game on my phone. don't have any social network stuff. That 20mb was mostly email headers, set to only fully download on wifi and I only opened a couple of those emails.

googling something does not take 60mb. as soon as you turned on data, a whole bunch of google's android crap and other apps started phoning home and sending the data they've been collecting on your phone at the expense of your battery life.

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[–] saagarjha link

I'm not the parent commenter, but I usually use around 500 MB a month. Mostly, this means sticking to Hacker News+quick web searches (which should not take 60 MB!). Mail, weather, and some other built-in apps have background refresh enabled; everything else has cellular data disabled.

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[–] beaorn link

agreed, it is so much cheaper than verizon for multiple phones on a plan. we don't use a lot of data, but its very predictable and cheap pricing if we are traveling and are using it. I've not had to deal with support often, so my experience has been positive.

My single gripe about Project/Google Fi is that sometimes I'm forced to use a 3rd party app (FiSwitch) for when it doesn't automatically switch to the best carrier for that area, but even with that the cheaper price is enough for me to stay. I still hope they improve the carrier detection issue though.

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[–] envy2 link

If you use large amounts of mobile data, their plans very quickly become obnoxious (throttled after 15GB) and expensive ($80 plus taxes/fees).

Compare that with T-Mobile, who offers $70 a month (including taxes/fees) with throttling at 50GB and 20GB of hotspot data for $15/mo more, or even AT&T or Verizon, and it's more expensive for less service.

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[–] holidaygoose link

I'm not sure how other people use so much data (besides video). I use whatever I want, and rarely go above 500MB ($5). I made sure to do the offline Google Maps (which I want anyways), and avoid streaming video on phone.

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[–] bb611 link

I use offline Google maps (I have ~10 areas since I travel frequently) but still use 600 MB/month of data from that app alone, I'm assuming traffic data.

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[–] beaorn link

I'm not sure this is the use case for the majority of Fi users, if they are using a lot of data its going to be cheaper from one of the source carriers than Fi, there is no way Fi could be cheaper than T-Mobile or Sprint who are the Google Fi carriers for heavy data use like this.

Most of the time my phone is on wifi and only using data during travel why pay for anything Im not expecting to use. If I'm off wifi enough where I'm doing a lot of data I'm not using Fi.

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[–] erik_seaberg link

> there is no way Fi could be cheaper than T-Mobile or Sprint who are the Google Fi carriers

Look at it as https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price_discrimination. A carrier can charge a lot to their locked-in customers, and sell spare capacity at lower markups to people who have competing alternatives, as long as all not everyone abandons them and moves to Fi.

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[–] anamexis link

Part of the appeal of Google Fi for me is the unlimited free international roaming. Do you know if there's any competition in that area?

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[–] sithadmin link

For US customers, TMO is the next closest (and is the carrier partner Fi uses for international roaming anyway). The catch is that TMO's ONE service plan throttles 'free' international usage to 2G speeds. Fi on the other hand does not.

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[–] maehwasu link

That "catch" is such a big difference in practice that it makes TMO a totally different (worse) thing.

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[–] radicaldreamer link

And no other carrier offers up to 9 additional data only SIMs on the same plan without additional charges.

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[–] sithadmin link

This is by far the thing I miss most about Fi, and I'm shocked that no other carrier so far has replicated the feature.

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[–] radicaldreamer link

It’s because people will figure out that they don’t need voice services st all...

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[–] sithadmin link

That's not a problem if you follow the Fi billing model: a base payment for voice and SMS/MMS service is always required to keep the account active. Data is billed separately.

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[–] radicaldreamer link

The thing is that I’m sure there are plenty of families on Fi who don’t have phone numbers for anyone but the primary account holder and rely on voip.

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[–] StillBored link

Because they charge by the byte, rather that the sim card. I find it hard to believe that is a generally useful feature unless you happen to have a network of IoT devices with 100MB of data usage a month.

Whatever you do, don't give one of those sim cards to my kids, which somehow manage to burn multiple GB a month each with the occasional music/youtube video in the car/whatever when they are away from the home/school/etc wifi.

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[–] pdx_flyer link

Same here. I am actually an AT&T customer and the $10/day for international roaming is nice as a backup but for the most part I just use my wife's Fi data SIM and pay a lot less.

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[–] pavanky link

I traveled to India in 2017 and 2018. I had problems getting HSPA+ most of the time. Had no problems with local carriers.

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[–] mbrumlow link

In Mumbai right now. Full LTE. I did a speed test today for fun and got 25mbps down and 5 up.

Last night on the way to some mall we took a route though some sort of jungle dairy farm. Both of the locals had no signal when about half way through traffic stopped ( except for the masses of motor bikes, they just keep comming ). I was the only one able to pull it Google maps and check how far up thr road the traffic was.

Maybe Mumbai is set up better for Fi? What parts were you in ?

Also. The main post here should be about Google payments, not Fi.

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[–] magduf link

I agree. Personally, I wouldn't use Mint (I just looked them up and they use the T-Mobile network--no thanks! I like having reliable service outside of the middle of metro areas.), but I use "Total Wireless" which is a Verizon MVNO, and it costs me $34/month for 5GB and unlimited text and talk, and uses the Verizon network. But $15/mo. for 3GB if you don't mind T-Mo's spotty signal quality is a really good deal.

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[–] el_benhameen link

Are there any downsides to Mint? I thought I was getting a pretty good deal with t-mobile, but damn, $15 a month is pretty tempting.

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[–] 4d66ba06 link

Be aware that $15/mo is promotional pricing. It's more like $23 or so a month after the first 3 months. I use Mint and like it.

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[–] axaxs link

I used Mint on and off. The service itself is solid, and the international rates were among the best around. I only left because my neighborhood has poor TMo coverage.

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[–] sithadmin link

I'll second that Mint is solid. They're a no-nonsense TMO-based MVNO. If you just need text, talk, and minimal to moderate data, and are okay with TMO's hit or miss coverage and iffy building penetration (which seems to have only improved moderately in spite of their band 12 LTE rollout), Mint is fine.

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[–] holidaygoose link

Only two things I noticed when comparing on their website. 1) lock in contracts, and 2) they piggyback off the T-Mobile network while Google Fi dynamically uses the best of 3 networks. Otherwise seems like a pretty frugal option.

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[–] sithadmin link

>they piggyback off the T-Mobile network while Google Fi dynamically uses the best of 3 networks

This happens only in theory, not practice with Fi. As a Fi launch customer that stuck with Fi through late 2017, Sprint (and later US Cellular) service was always terrible and frequently unusable, no matter what metro area I used it in. My experience improved dramatically when I just kept my Nexus device around as a spare, and moved my primary SIM to an iPhone, where it was permanently locked to using TMO.

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[–] golem14 link

Anecdata: Mint has been working quite well for me for about a year, including during a few trips to Europe. I believe pricing gets even a tiny bit better if you buy service for a whole year at once.

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[–] deepsun link

Isn't it 2GB? And on their website I'm charged $45 for some reason.

Also the plan says 3-month plan (regular price $23), so your price seems to be promotional.

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[–] 4d66ba06 link

Mint requires you to buy at least 3 months at a time.

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[–] ndiscussion link

Google Fi sucks, it's way too expensive. The last several years have seen an explosion of MVNOs, mobile virtual network operators. I use Mint Sim and get 3gb LTE/month with unlimited talk and text, and unlimited throttled internet after the 3gb, for $15/month.

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[–] shhun link

I'm a bit concerned about all the people here that tell they've been using Google services for decades and are afraid to loose their pictures/documents/etc... I mean how is giving such control over your data to one company a good idea in the first place ? I'm not saying that in patronizing way, but this should not be considered as normal behavior. I think that Google has already access to way much more data than it should and I really wouldn't want to hand them my phone bill. Even if you're not concerned about your privacy (and I really think you should), centralizing everything will only make problems worse if something happens with this one service, should it be Google, Apple or anyone else.

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[–] sogrady link

I can understand why people criticize it, but I personally like Fi. The multiple carriers give me coverage in areas I don't expect it like Maine islands or the Sangre de Cristo foothills, and the price is reasonable if not the lowest available.

Additionally, the one time I've had to contact support, I had an email reply in 27 minutes.

Throw in perks like the seamless international support (if you travel internationally at all this is tremendous) and the data SIM for an iPad, and I've been pretty happy with the service.

That could all change the next time I need support if they're still overwhelmed with new users, but so far so good.

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[–] sithadmin link

You can pause Fi service for a few months at a time.

However, Google will catch on to your proposed usage pattern and will eventually boot you from the platform. Majority usage outside the USA violate ToS.

There are plenty of stories on r/projectfi about this. I've also had a personal friend that was booted after he subscribed to Fi, then moved out of the USA month later for a temporary work assignment, and was booted from Fi a few months later for violating ToS.

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[–] saagarjha link

> Majority usage outside the USA violate ToS.

I'm not seeing this listed here: https://fi.google.com/about/tos/. What are the guidelines behind this?

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[–] splonk link

"The Services are offered only to residents of the United States. The Services must be primarily used in the United States and are not intended for extended international use. Further, the Services are designed for use predominantly within our network. If your usage outside our network is excessive, abnormally high, or cause us to incur too much cost, we may, at our option and sole discretion, suspend your Google Fi account, terminate your service, or limit your use of roaming."

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[–] drewblaisdell link

Thanks for the info.

> Majority usage outside the USA violate ToS.

Bummer.

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[–] derimagia link

Can't give you a definite answer, but it's easy to activate an account and they have a wizard for cancelling a plan with what looks pretty quick. https://i.imgur.com/lBv5NUw.png

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[–] roland35 link

I haven't disabled my service, but it was pretty straightforward to enable and everything can be managed through the website/app! Things seems to be easier now than before since you don't need a Fi-specific phone to activate

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[–] drewblaisdell link

Maybe someone on HN will know the answer to this: is it easy to enable/disable service with Google Fi? My use case is to use Fi while traveling internationally for a few months out of the year while switching back to my existing plan in the US. I only want to pay for Fi in the months when I'm out of the country.

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[–] overtmind link

Anyone notice a theme here?

Every failure of google has something to do with the fact that they're automating so far that it ends up being downright harmful. Youtube, Google Pay, Google Cloud, etc

I've even heard of similar stories about using Google Cloud, where the system can flag your account and basically your entire business is deleted due to an automated process!

https://medium.com/@serverpunch/why-you-should-not-use-googl...

Though they seem to have reigned that in a bit here: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/07/18/google_cloud_platfo...

I get the feeling in the short term they'll double-down on automation/AI until it's good enough nobody notices.

I wonder if they have a pulse on how their businesses are suffering because of that perception, though. When your company has a stigma of it being nearly impossible to reach a human being to get things done - is it really a surprise that my colleagues and I won't recommend google cloud as a service provider?

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[–] tarikozket link

I switched to Google Fi from Verizon last month. I tested it in the Bay Area, Southern California and Florida. The service quality sucked unimaginably. I literally had to use my iPhone like an antenna in the office in San Francisco to have a phone call. The internet sucked badly as well.

I switched back to Verizon and Google Fi made me feel thankful to have Verizon.

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[–] exabrial link

Yet another reason why "your phone number is your identity" (aka sms "2fA") is a horrible horrible horrible idea, especially for payment companies.

If you're paying your cell bill with your credit card, and your credit card requires sms authentication, you've entered an infinite loop.

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[–] roland35 link

I am happy with Fi, and have been a customer for 2.5 years so far. There are certainly many use cases in which Fi is way more expensive, but that is the case with any carrier.

I think as far as customer support I have had more problems with Verizon than Fi, but your mileage may vary!

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[–] ta1234567890 link

About a year ago I tried getting Google Fi. Ordered a phone online, paid about $300. Then it never arrived.

When I talked to support, first they made me wait for about a week to confirm on their end that the phone was lost. Then their only solution was to process a refund (which took them another week to do), after which I would've had to purchase the same phone again.

Talked to a bunch of their support staff to no avail. They just would not send another phone. Seems like completely the opposite of what Amazon would have done (and probably the main reason why I'm a happy Amazon customer after over a decade, whereas I never looked back after the bad experience with Google Fi).

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[–] aidenn0 link

Sprint support was incompetent, but they were at least as likely to make an error in your favor as not, so you could just call a couple times until you got the result you wanted.

Verizon's support was mediocre, but it idn't take too much persistence to escalate things to someone who could actually make a decision.

The recent stories I've heard of Fi's support make it sound like when something goes wrong, the easiest thing to do is to just open a new gmail account and switch to using that, which is a bit mind boggling.

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[–] rmason link

I was in a Verizon store and was asked to leave or they'd call the police. My crime was to insist they honor a deal they advertised on their website. Offered to bring it up on one of their own computers when they insisted that I was wrong. Then I was asked not so politely to leave.

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[–] jdofaz link

I think I am flagged as a profitable customer with T-Mobile because I never have to wait on hold and I always get excellent service.

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[–] rmason link

I've had accounts with Verizon, Sprint and tMobile. On their worst day Google Fi is head and shoulders above them, it's not even close. I've used cell phones for thirty years and my time on Fi is the most stress free in all that time.

Having said that Google needs to do a better job at customer service. But so do Facebook and Amazon, both of which have caused me major problems.

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[–] xibalba link

I have had a similar recent experience with Fi after having used their service for three years now, and I would also no longer recommend Fi. This is very disappointing because Fi's customer service was once fantastic.

I had many time consuming and useless interactions via phone, chat, and email with Fi's support reps over the course of a month to solve a simple issue. After growing increasingly frustrated, I requested that the issue be escalated to an employee with actual sway, but the reps refused to escalate it beyond one level up to a "specialist" who was of no help. I finally tracked down on LinkedIn a Fi higher up who works at the mothership in Mountain View (all contacts thus far were with what was clearly an offshore team). I DM'ed them directly via LinkedIn to explain my issue. This action resulted in a complete resolution of my problem within 5 days. This absolutely shouldn't be necessary to address what was a very straightforward problem, and does not augur well for Fi's future.

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[–] 1024core link

> 1. If you use the max 10G every month it's pretty expensive.

How can that be? They cap your bill at $60 (which you hit after using 6GB). https://techcrunch.com/2018/01/17/googles-project-fi-now-cap...

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[–] undefined link
[deleted]

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[–] tinyhouse link

It's 10G for two lines.

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[–] bduerst link

That doesn't sound right, because Fi charges a metered flat rate per data used, there is no "Max 10GB".

You may be misunderstanding how Fi data works. Fi's "max" is mostly there because consumers have learned that behavior from other carriers who like to charge overages - Fi refunds the metered data you don't use if you paid for 10 GB, and bills you at the same rate if you go over.

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[–] tinyhouse link

My bad, I meant something else. We have two lines and we pay for 10G max (beyond that it's free but beyond 15G it becomes slower (only data on the account that goes beyond 15G becomes slower)). If we use less than 10G we pay less. What I meant is that for people who reach the cap it gets expensive. There are cheaper unlimited plans with other carriers.

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[–] tinyhouse link

I can relate. We have two Fi phones and there are bunch of problems: 1. If you use the max 10G every month it's pretty expensive. 2. Support is indeed bad. I once contacted them via the app and was told someone will reach out to me within 24 hours. No one did. 3. There are technical problems such as people calling me when I'm on wifi and they cannot hear me when I answer and instead go directly to voice mail. I was told to clear the cache but it's not always helpful.

Things I like about Fi: 1. It's really nice that it works pretty much in every country. I travel often and it's supper convenient. (it's more expensive than getting a local sim in many countries but more convenient). 2. I don't need to listen to messages since they get transcribed automatically. (I'm assuming this is not a Fi only thing)

So overall the main differentiation for me is the travel part. For people who don't travel out of the country the Fi doesn't provide anything special.

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[–] BuffaloBagel link

US citizen here. I was in Mozambique, England, Romania and Denmark with my Fi phone in 2017. Despite being listed as a country Fi covered, I could never get service in Mozambique (Beria), despite spending a few hours with several courteous Google Fi customer support people. My experience in the European countries was satisfactory. I don't recall any issues and it was nice to have my US phone number just work in those places.

An earlier trip in 2016 to Tajikistan in central Asia with my Fi phone required purchasing a local SIM card.

I've since given up on Google Fi and switched my number back to Verizon and have been happily using a $200 Moto G5 Plus purchased through Amazon.

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[–] antichaos link

Google Fi's international data service used to be great. Now it's completely dysfunctional in countries such as Croatia, China, etc, and very spotty in Austria, Iceland, Philippines, Ecuador, northern Japan etc. I can no longer rely on Fi when I travel abroad.

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[–] throw7 link

I think this is a very good example of PRIVATE vs. GOVERNMENT.

Google has set up a service that is usable/payable by their own rules.

This is something we (U.S.) take as verboten as a private business. They can discriminate on any reason except as dictated as against governance(race/age/religion/etc).

If you've been detected by google as "fraudulent" by google, then there is zero recourse for you. Goodbye to your google account.

If the U.S. government is not going to do anything about this (it has not shown any interest in this type of problem) then YOU need to be proactive. Be ready to change services to the private businesses that you interact with AND/OR speak with your representatives of your government.

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[–] andrewaylett link

For all that "legal tender" as a concept is so often misused, this is actually pretty much the poster-child case where it's necessary: you one someone money and they're refusing to accept payment. Offer them some legal tender, they're required to accept _that_ in payment of your debt.

Of course, Google being a tech company that might not motivate them to solve their tech problems so it might not fix their other account issues. But it really should fix the phone company side of the problem, allowing the number to be ported out.

Or maybe I'm overly optimistic.

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[–] bubblethink link

Isn't a more fundamental reason to not use fi is that it's not a real phone network ? Nobody other than google can operate a client as intended on the fi network. The network switching stuff isn't a standard or open source AFAIK. It's not a part of AOSP. Only google's licensed devices get that logic as a part of google play services. All other devices will operate in degraded mode where you are basically using a single carrier just like other carriers. So why bother ?

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[–] jayalpha link

I love my Fi. But I did not activate it in the US and activating abroad was not trivial. Their "Service" called this "buyers remorse" since I could still use Wifi. Long story.

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[–] pcpcpc link

Anecdotal evidence, but service was getting worse and worse with google fi (in San Francisco) over the past few months and I just switched to another carrier a few weeks ago. Calls were regularly dropping and data would cut in and out.

(I scrolled through the comments and didn't see this anywhere else. I think it's worth mentioning. I will miss the international coverage and included hotspot... And as someone who is on WiFi most of the time, it was cheaper than any of the major carriers.)

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[–] mattfaus link

Would adding multiple payment methods to your google payments account mitigate the risk here?

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[–] m0zg link

It always seemed like a rip-off to me, given that there existed a $120 per 4 lines T-Mobile plan with _global data_ for free and unlimited domestic data (well, speed is capped after 4GB per line, but still pretty decent). When abroad, data speeds aren't going to impress, but it's enough for email and maps and it works nearly everywhere. I'm not associated with T-Mobile and don't hold any of their stock. Just a satisfied customer.

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[–] hogu link

Is anyone using GCE? This is making me pretty worried. I'm operating a jupyter notebook service where every user gets their own volume. If my account was suspended and we no longer have access to user data that would be terrible. We can try backing data out to AWS but the egress fees would add up

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[–] TheMagicHorsey link

If you want a cheap, fairly good mobile plan ... try Mint SIM. You can choose Verizon, AT&T, or TMobile networks. You prepay for your plans. A 5GB, unlimited call, unlimited text plan is about $15/month. The cheapest I've found.

Only downside is my texts don't always download when I'm on Wifi, so sometimes I have to disconnect to download my texts, and then reconnect to wifi. Annoying but not a deal breaker.

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[–] hi41 link

I had a lot of issues with getting Google Fi. On Wi-Fi the calls wouldn’t go through. If it did the quality of voice was not good. When receiving calls there was a delay after I accept the call when the caller couldn’t hear me. When my wife was in Manhattan her phone stopped working completely. she had to use the phone of her friend to call me. And we moved from iPhone to android and we hated the experience.

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[–] kuroop link

This post is not surprising to me. Google product support team lacks empathy at a very fundamental level. Last year in middle somehow google's system decided to get me locked out of the old gmail account. I have all the phones which have ever been connected to it, and all emails I have had ever connected to it. But no! The only message I have got is, our security team will take 3-5 days to get back to you.

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[–] godelski link

Since switching to Android 9 has anyone else noticed that their data usage went up? Or rather that their phone disconnects from Wifi frequently?

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[–] sammycdubs link

FWIW re: cell carriers in the US, I've found prepaid has worked really well for me at a much lower price than even something like Google Fi. I've been using Mint, and I pay $25 a month for a 10GB plan and it's worked great so far.

I've heard their support isn't the best, but fortunately I've not had to deal with them yet.

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[–] maslam link

I've been a Fi customer for two years. Sometimes it 'just works' when you travel internationally, which is magical. Most times however it just ok. It was dismal in Pakistan last year. In Netherlands it's barely ok. I'm ditching it in a few days since the Dutch have better, cheaper carriers.

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[–] supernova87a link

One of the realizations of operationalizing an algorithm / system is that designers / programmers rarely think of every way in which human beings do unexpected things with their system. And usually the enthusiasm is never as great to mop up the customer experience problems after the 99% is solved for.

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[–] TheMagicHorsey link

Holy shit! So Google has turned into the Comcast of 2019.

Wow, it took just 19 years to go from the darling of the year 2000 ... DO NO EVIL ... to the WE DONT GIVE A FUCK ABOUT RUINING YOUR DIGITAL LIFE BECAUSE WE HAVE A POLICY AND PROCEDURE.

I guess it really is inevitable. You either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain.

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[–] sbr464 link

I’ve tried it and overall found the service spotty in Denver, and typically a notch lower (technical term) on whatever speed compared to Verizon etc, when traveling internationally. I will admit that initial tech support experiences were unsustainably amazing.

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[–] jlmorton link

The service is tremendous, the support is terrible. My experience signing up definitely gave me pause about the service, but I have no complaints since.

When I signed up for Fi on Black Friday, taking advantage of a great deal with $200 off the Pixel 3, and $200 in Google Fi credits, I mistakenly used a pre-populated shipping address to my work address in my order. That address was no longer valid, as my company had recently moved.

When I got a shipping notification, I realized my mistake. I contacted FedEx to change the shipping address, but Google Fi had placed a restriction on their shipments that didn't allow recipients to change the shipping address.

So I contacted Google Fi support. After waiting on hold for nearly two hours, I was told that since the product had already shipped, the issue would need to be escalated to their Shipping Specialists, who would contact me. Great.

Two days later, the package arrived in my city, and FedEx noted a delivery exception, since the address was not occupied. I called Google Fi support again, and after waiting on hold for an hour, was told the issue had already been escalated.

Several days later, after no progress, I chatted with Google Fi support again. No update, no ETA, they simply said the Shipping Specialists would get to it when they can. I contacted them again two days later. Same drill. No update, no ETA, no information, no ability to do anything except tell me to wait.

About ten days after I first contacted them, and seven days after the package arrived in my city, FedEx returned the package to the sender. I contacted Google Fi again, and asked if they could send a replacement, now that the original was being returned. No dice. I'd have to wait for the Shipping Specialists.

A few days later, the Shipping Specialists cancelled my order and refunded my payment, without ever talking to me. They advised me that I could place a new order. I replied asking if Google Fi would honor their promotional pricing, since the phone was now $200 more expensive, and the Google Fi credits had dropped from $200 to $100. They said they might, and they would escalate it to a manager if I purchased a new phone, and sent them the order details.

So I did. Here was their reply about a week later:

> Hi XXXXX,

> My name is XXXXX and I'm a higher level Specialist here with Google Fi. I'm working directly with our Promotions Team to determine your eligibility for our "Pixel 3 / 3 XL $400 Back" promotion that was ongoing from November 22nd @ 11:00 PM PT - November 27th @ 11:59 PM PT.

> After thoroughly reviewing your account, we have determined you are ineligible for an exception to this promotion.

> Per the promotion terms: "Limited time offer available from 11/22/18 11:00 PM PT through 11/27/18 11:59 PM PT, or while supplies last"

> Since your original order GS.XXXXXXXX was returned to shipper due to an incorrect shipping address, we are unable to provide an exception.

Pretty amazing. I called Google Fi support five times over a 10 day period to try and get the shipping address changed. The original mistake was mine, but no one at Google Fi support was able to do anything about the problem until the phone was returned, and then they made no effort to rectify the situation.

With that said, I'm quite happy with the phone and service - just not the support.

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[–] b212 link

I'm always amazed how expensive mobile plans in the US are.

Google Fi Unlimited + 6 GB of is $80 a month. In Poland you get the same for around $6.5, prepaid.

On the other hand AT&T Prepaid $40 Monthly Plan has everything unlimited and 8 GB of data, so why would anyone use Google Fi?

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[–] rkagerer link

I've had edge case service nightmares with Google as well. Hate to say it but for a company that prides themselves on being smart, sometimes (just like in any other bureaucracy) they come across as really stupid.

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[–] saagarjha link

Just switched to Google Fi, and while I haven't had any issues to the extent to which the author did, the I do agree that the support experience is not great. It's in line with most Google products.

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[–] ryanmercer link

I've been with them for 3 years and change, the entire time it's very much been an iffy beta-feeling product. shrugs the price is worth the inconveniences I've experienced.

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[–] killjoywashere link

Ah, I live on a small island in the Pacific and just got back from Thailand. Having Google Fi has been an absolute game changer.

Would having a back-up payment method set have solved something like this?

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[–] camdenlock link

Things like this are why I've recently bailed on my Google account (including my decades-old gmail account). There ARE alternatives out there. I've been enjoying ProtonMail.

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[–] skolos link

Throughout years Google showed that if you make any of their products essential for you, there is big chance you are going to be screwed. In the end all they care is web search.

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[–] duxup link

I'd leave Fi, but who am I going to use after that? Verizon, ATT? Granted Fi uses ATT (and roams on Verizon once in a while) but I'd rather not pay them directly....

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[–] eisa01 link

The EU should introduce some Digital Consumer Rights to put a stop to these arbitrary black holes you can get into with internet giants.

Would surely be a positive measure?

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[–] gus_massa link

Just to be sure, the gmail account was also locked?

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[–] wittedhaddock link

FWIW I started a Google Fi competitor focused on providing competent service quickly: CommunityPhone.org

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[–] 8ytecoder link

Well, it will be fixed with the next rewrite of Google Payments/Wallet/Pay/Whatever.

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[–] TomMckenny link

Is there some disadvantage to using a dedicated Google account solely for Google Fi?

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[–] tramGG link

This is why consolidation of power is bad. You can't out run their influence and consideration. Competition is great in both tech and state because you have options (barring collusion).

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[–] x0x0 link

tl;dr:

* all payments through google use google pay

* poster's husband bought a pixel 3 at the same time there was fraud on their card.

* the pixel 3 shipped even though the payment was reversed because of the fraud

* google shut down his google pay account hard, and that broke google fi, hangouts, access to his phone number, etc.

* google support has been super googley about this (ie foad)

* if you ever have fraud problems with google pay, prepare for all google stuff to break with 0 resolution or help

* as a side note, poster bought a pixel 3 and they have improved their support from the pixel 2 to be more googley. The phone remains basically broken.

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[–] your-nanny link

on plus side, Google asked the cell companies not to cell Fi customers location data...

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[–] bduerst link

What is Verizon billing you? Verizon's "unlimited" plan is capped 22 GB and slows you down after. You get true unlimited data with Fi at $60 + $20 per line.

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[–] chisleu link

When did they start that? I was paying $10/GB plus $20/mo. Also Google Fi slows data after 15GB... https://fi.google.com/about/plan/

My Verizon plan is under $70 w/ the taxes/fees.

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[–] chisleu link

It routinely cost me so much in data that it was cheaper to get a Verizon unlimited data plan. That was the end of it for me.

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[–] titanomachy link

99% chance you'll be totally fine, so probably not worth losing sleep over it.

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[–] ben509 link

Just my luck, I start seeing all the horror stories after I've just signed up for this. Pucker intensifies...

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[–] openloop link

Phew look at the comments on this one google.

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[–] metalliqaz link

You're not wrong, but you don't have to point it out like it's a revelation. The disclosure is prominently displayed at the head of the article.

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[–] pdx_flyer link

Every post is marked with that disclosure. I just find the content hard to read when it is so blatantly there to try and get you to sign up for one of the cards that happens to be mentioned.

The whole post could have been 150 words.

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[–] Dylan16807 link

The whole post had quite a lot of useful setup for how support has changed and the current state of it. Don't be so taken aback by a single sentence of advertising that it taints your view of the rest.

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[–] pdx_flyer link

A credit card pushing post veiled as a Google Fi review. Awesome.

My wife still loves Fi, and I love having a Fi data sim.

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