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An unwanted update to your Google Account

Rob OLeary
Hacker, traveller, photographer, tinkerer
Originally published at roboleary.net Updated on ・3 min read

I got an email from Google today with the title "An update to your Google Account".

The gist of the email is that Google wants to change the country associated with my account, presumably based on recently recorded IP addresses associated with my account.

It specifically said the following:

We associate your Google Account with a country (or region) so that we can better provide our services to you. This association is used to determine two things:
The Google company that provides the services, processes your information and is responsible for complying with applicable privacy laws

The version of the Terms of Service that governs our relationship, which can vary depending on local laws.

Your country association will change within 30 days:

from Germany
to Malaysia

Bear in mind that Google services are essentially the same, regardless of your country association. Also, any purchased content and banking information that you might have in your Google Account will remain the same.

What I find curious is that it says the services are essentially the same between different countries. So, there is no advantage to me as a consumer for anything to change.

There is a disadvantage for me, because the privacy laws in Europe are stronger than Asia, I lose some privacy protection. Is this a coincidence?

I don't want to be cynical, but it seems suspicious to me. As someone who travels a lot (not recently!), I would never want this done automatically for me. This has never happened before, so it must be a recent policy change.

I wonder if they will they make this change every few months in the future if I move around? Is there some criteria that triggers this to happen?

Further in the email, it gives an indication of how you can request to correct your associated country:

If the country associated with your account doesn’t match your country of residence...You can find more information about your country association, and a way to request a change if you think that it’s wrong, by reviewing the Google Terms of Service.

The Terms of Service actually say nothing at all about country association!

After some searching, I found how to make a Country Association Inquiry. It's just a short form where you pick your country and give a reason why this is a mistake. When you submit the form, it says something like "We’ll get back to you by email within a few weeks."

Which will happen first? The automatic switching of the country association, or Google responding to my inquiry? It's going to be a race!

This may seem like busy work but I think it's important to do what you can to protect your privacy. If you do nothing, Google and others will erode your rights online if it correlates with increasing profits. If we don't pay attention and raise these kind of issues, then they might go unnoticed and may be considered bona-fide.

Edit: 4.4.2021

Google responded with:

You recently sent us a request to change the country associated with your Google Account. After reviewing your account, we think your current country association is accurate and we didn't change anything.

Your country:Malaysia

You can see the country associated with your account by looking at Google's Terms of Service.

Discussion (16)

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princealarming profile image
Prince-Alarming

An alternative to keeping residing country in check is, Degoogling. I mean to say, express and imply to get rid of Google entirely. Replace it with FOSS (Free Open Source Software) this not only free but most respect your privacy as well.

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andreidascalu profile image
Andrei Dascalu

I keep looking for ways to do that but...
I use Google professionally (GCP) and în a personal level I still haven't found a global service for audio books that is a) subscription free and b) has decent device availability with reasonable prices which could replace playbooks for me.

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varuns924 profile image
Varun S

Isn't DigitalOcean the same niche as GCP?

For audio books, Spotify announced a podcast/audio-streaming platform this week

Thread Thread
andreidascalu profile image
Andrei Dascalu

DO wants to be but it will take years for it to catch up. On a personal development level I have used DO but professionally I use GCP mostly because their GKE and Athos services are in a different universe than any competition.
It takes a lot of work to make up for what competitors lack, usually money that my customers won't invest.
On the audio books side, I just care for audio books as long as there is no subscription involved and from what I read, Spotify's service comes with a subscription.

Thread Thread
varuns924 profile image
Varun S

In any case, I have a rule that for software development/professional work it is fine to use Big Tech products.

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robole profile image
Rob OLeary Author • Edited

I only use a couple of Google services. However, I still have an android phone and replacing everything is a bit more difficult with all the integrations there. I would like to drop them all if possible!

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varuns924 profile image
Varun S

I've been doing this as well.
Firefox instead of Chrome
OceanHero instead of Google Search
ProtonMail instead of Gmail
Borum Jot instead of Google Keep

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princealarming profile image
Prince-Alarming

Rob,
Check this sight out.

octoplusbox.com/en/products/frp-tool/

Before you choose to get it see if your device is compatible!!

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udondan profile image
Daniel Schroeder

I got the same Mail. They want to move my account from Germany to Thailand. I've not been to Thailand (or anywhere else) since 2 years...

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robole profile image
Rob OLeary Author

Thats clearly shady then 😅

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udondan profile image
Daniel Schroeder

Also, very shady is to give you 30 days to react and when you fill out the form (which you linked in your post) the confirmation says:

We’ll get back to you by email within a few weeks.

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robole profile image
Rob OLeary Author • Edited

There's a strange irony to that. I wonder if they're just testing the waters by doing this, and seeing how many people object.

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udondan profile image
Daniel Schroeder

After all it didn't take them weeks to respond. Lucky me!

You recently sent us a request to change the country associated with your Google Account. After reviewing your account, we think your current country association is accurate and we didn't change anything.

Your country:Thailand

Thread Thread
robole profile image
Rob OLeary Author • Edited

Ya, I got the same reply 🤦

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udondan profile image
Daniel Schroeder

In case you haven't sorted this out yet. I replied to that Mail, they'll have to fix it or i will complain with German authorities. Now I live in Germany again 😉

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robole profile image
Rob OLeary Author • Edited

That's good Daniel. For sure, this won't fly in Germany!