Imagine waking up one day to find out that your Google account is banned permanently with no way to get it back. You would likely be upset by this and consider it to be a major inconvenience, right?
Depending on how integrated you are within the Google ecosystem, a perma-ban could potentially be much more than an inconvenience: it could be devastating. A banned Google account means no access to things you might use every day, including Gmail, Google Drive, Google Photos, and Google Pay. It means any playlists you’ve made on YouTube are gone and it means no longer accessing your music saved in the cloud through Google Play Music. It means you need to re-purchase all the apps, movies, and books you’ve bought from the Google Play Store.
I don’t know about you, but if my Google account was banned it would turn my life upside down.
Although the vast majority of users will never experience a banned Google account, it can and does happen. We’re going to summarize the basics of this problem as best we can, giving you all the info you need on how and why this happens. We’ll also let you know what you can do if your account is banned and, most importantly, how to prevent it from happening at all.
Just in case you’re surprised to find out this news, yes: Google has every right to terminate your account. You can read the full Terms of Service related to Google accounts here, but all you really need to know is the line below: "We may suspend or stop providing our Services to you if you do not comply with our terms or policies or if we are investigating suspected misconduct."
It can’t get much more clear than that: If Google doesn’t like what you’re doing it can suspend or terminate your account at any moment.
In the TOS document, Google says that it can ban your account if you “misuse” or “interfere” with its services. The language makes it sound as if Google is only concerned about people using a Google product in a way that’s not intended, such as hacking the Play Store to get items for free. It also seems as if Google is primarily focused on attacks of its products, such as a DDoS attack.
However, the language is very broad. Google has full power to decide on whether or not someone “misused” a service, which gives you, the consumer, not much of a leg to stand on. In other words, Google has a ton of power over your account and there’s not much you can do about it.
Here is a recent example: A slew of YouTube users had their Google accounts (not just their YouTube accounts) banned for “spamming” a video feed with Emojis. However, the YouTuber who created the video in question encouraged users to do just that, so it was unnecessary for Google to go so far as to perform full account bans. To make matters worse, it took Google days before it reactivated everyone’s accounts. Even then, some experienced data loss.
This is why it’s very important for you to be careful and stay informed!
As mentioned, there are so many Google services on which we rely. Gmail alone has over 1.2 billion active users, or roughly 15% of the entire global population. A Google account getting banned could likely be devastating for the simple fact that you couldn’t access Gmail anymore.
For Android users, though, a banned Google account means their entire smartphone doesn’t work correctly. With a banned account, you’d no longer be able to sync your data, download your apps, or get notifications for some of the most prominent applications on your phone. The only way around this would be to log in with a new account and essentially start from scratch.
Just to make sure you understand the gravity of the situation, here’s an incomplete list of Google-owned properties that you would not be able to use fully with your current Google account should it get banned:
- Chrome OS
- Wear OS
- Google Home
- Google Nest
- Google Wifi
- Docs, Sheets, and Slides
- Google Drive
- Google Play Store
- Google Maps
- Google Fi
- Google Fit
- Google Pay
- Google Photos
Not only would your access be gone or severely limited for those products, but, in many cases, you wouldn’t even have access to any of the data associated with that account. That could mean some or all of your important documents in Drive, your cherished pictures in Photos, your email, your smartphone, and on and on. You wouldn’t even be able to connect to the internet at home if you rely on Google Wifi!
Although there are plenty of examples of people getting unexpectedly banned by Google (see previous section, or this article, or this one), most people will likely go their whole lives and not see a ban. If it does happen, though, you have some options.
If your Google account is banned and you’ve made your way to this article looking for assistance, you’re in luck: There are a few steps you can take to potentially get your account (and data) back.
The first thing you want to do is find out why your account was banned. That’s as simple as clicking here to log in to your Google account and then seeing what message pops up once you complete your sign-in.
Once you are logged in, you can attempt to restore your account right from that same page. Just hit the “Try to Restore” button on that page and then follow the instructions.
If you try to restore and that appeal is rejected or there is some sort of error message, you can make a direct appeal to Google. Just head to this form and fill it out with all the info you can. Google says it usually responds within two business days to appeals.
While you’re waiting, you can attempt to download at least some of your account data. Just open up the apps you use (Google Photos, Google Drive, etc.) while logged in to your banned account and examine the page that appears. For some apps, there will be a link to instructions on how to download your app data just in case Google doesn’t lift the ban.
Unfortunately, if your automatic appeal doesn’t work and then Google rejects your manual appeal, there’s not much you can do. You can try to gain traction on social media if you feel your account was banned for illegitimate reasons and Google might change its mind to avoid bad press. But, once you’ve gone through the appeal process, you’re pretty much on your own.
Chances are incredibly good that nearly everyone reading this article will never see a Google account banned. As long as you are a (generally) law-abiding citizen and aren’t using or attempting to use your Google account to nefarious ends, you will likely be safe.
But, because of Google’s overarching reach across nearly every facet of our electronic lives, it’s very important to remember that it has the power to take everything you use away at any moment. Therefore, the absolute best way to prepare for the potential of a banned Google account is to avoid relying entirely on the company.
By doing this, you protect yourself as best you can from an unexpected ban. Even if you follow all the rules of each service, that’s not a guarantee Google won’t ban you anyway (see the Emoji example above).
For example, if you store a lot of pictures and videos in Google Photos, keep a backup on a hard drive you own just in case. Do the same for your music in Google Play Music or your documents and files within Google Drive. Even if you don’t keep up with backups too often, you’ll at least still have some of your data if your account gets unexpectedly banned down the road.
Another way to be proactive is to create different Google accounts for different services. For example, you could make a “smart home” Google account which links to your Nest products, your Chromecasts, your Google Wifi router, etc. You could then have another Google account for your media files, another for your smartphone, and on and on. That way, if for some reason one of these accounts gets banned, the other accounts remain unaffected.
Yes, both of these methods are inconvenient and kind of go against the whole idea of the simplicity of a single Google account. But if Google has all the power and there are numerous instances of account bans for illegitimate reasons, it might be better to be safe rather than sorry if this is something that concerns you. You will need to determine for yourself what lengths you should go to in order to protect your data, but rest assured: Google has a lot of power here.