Google Cloud has begun reviewing its abuse-prevention process after a customer complaint posted to Medium last week generated a lot of criticism of the service.
The post was written by an anonymous administrator who oversaw a system that monitors “hundreds of wind turbines and scores of solar plants.” The admin generated a lot of attention after Google blocked the admin’s website, app and other services on June 28 without warning because it had detected “potential suspicious activity.”
Google then threatened to shutdown the system for good unless the administrator could provide proper ID and other documents. Things never got to that point as Google responded to the admin’s request for help and settled the situation very quickly.
Now Google is doing damage control to make sure that the situation doesn’t happen again and to spread the word to existing and potential customers of its Cloud business.
Brian Bender, an engineering support lead at Google Cloud, wrote on Medium that the situation had prompted a review of the company’s “abuse prevention processes.”
To make sure that the problem would not happen again, Google said it would re-evaluate the data sources that were used to assess potential fraudulent activity, implement mechanisms for suspect accounts and “meaningfully improve the effectiveness of how we communicate account warnings.”
“We sincerely apologize for this issue and are working quickly to make things better, not just for this customer but for all GCP customers,” Bender wrote.
The fight it not just about technology
The snafu was exactly the kind of news that Google Cloud doesn’t need as it competes with Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure for enterprise customers, and it highlights a potential weak spot in Google’s plan to diversify from its longstanding advertising business.
Diane Greene, chief exec of Google Cloud, has said often that Google has superior technology and brainpower than rivals. But the battle may not be won on tech brawn alone. When it comes to customer service — a critical feature for businesses staking their livelihoods on a cloud service — Google appears a lot more vulnerable. In the many discussions about this incident at Reddit and other online message boards, one of the big complaints about Google Cloud is its inability for customers to contact human customer-service reps in emergencies.
In his Medium post, Bender doesn’t address that issue. We’ll have to wait and see what that means for customers in the future.