Google error wipes out Gmail accounts

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Google apologized on Monday to Gmail users who in some cases have seen their e-mail history deleted, but said that some accounts have already been restored.

The company said the issue affects less than .08 percent of its user base, and a Google spokeswoman in London said it does not detail how many Gmail users it has. The company, however, is on the record as saying it has hundreds of millions of Gmail users, and in that case the issue would be affecting at least 160,000 users. The problem is not isolated to a specific region, the spokeswoman said. Users around the world posted comments on Twitter.

“Today a very small number of users are having difficulty accessing their Gmail accounts, and in some cases once they’re in, trouble viewing e-mails,” the company said in a statement. “Our engineers are working as quickly as possible and we hope to have everything back to normal soon. We’re very sorry for the inconvenience to our customers.”

On its Apps Status dashboard, Google said that users who are having their accounts repaired will be unable to sign in.

Google’s Gmail support forum is filled with panicky comments.

“Google has been in the forefront of encouraging people to store their data and applications in “the cloud” (a Google-provided cloud, of course!), touting the security of this approach versus the now old-fashioned local hard drive,” wrote one user. “Well, what if the cloud fails? If, ultimately, Google does not make this right in a timely way and I lose the main record of the last seven years of my life.”

Service failures and data losses are two of the main fears of so-called cloud-based services, where the computer processing and storage are done in remote data centers and results are delivered through a Web browser.

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