How a stolen phone hijacked my Google account

first_imgLast year, during the height and excitement of the Consumer Electronics Show, my phone disappeared. Unfortunately, it is terribly common at CES for small electronics to walk off and never be seen again. I was upset, but since I was planning to switch to Verizon when I got back from the event anyway, I got over it fairly quickly.I tried all of the things I could to rescue my phone, including the GPS tracking apps I had installed, but to no avail. So when I got home I got a new phone, and forgot that phone ever existed. Last week, I was reminded of my missing phone, when pictures of a face I didn’t know that had been geotagged in a place I had never been started showing up on my Google+ Instant Upload page.The Instant Upload feature in Google+ is great. Of the services that offer that feature, I find that Google’s implementation is the least invasive, and the uploads don’t affect your storage limits with Google. Also, there’s no limit to how many devices you can have Google+ on with this feature. In fact, if you install this feature on a phone and you lose that phone, the next person to use it could easily make the mistake of sharing their personal photos with you. They could share those photos with you every single day, and since you no longer have control of this phone there’s nothing you can do about it.Every day, I wake up to see a dozen new photos from my new friend in Guadalajara. I don’t know his name, but I know that he really enjoys taking pictures of himself. There’s new pictures in my Instant Upload every day, and I have no control over their arrival. I have changed my password three times since I first lost that phone, and any attempts I have made to connect to that phone have failed. If I had to guess, I would say that my new friend has disabled sync on my Google accounts so that he could setup his own and not be bothered by any of my pesky notifications. The fact that I have changed by password has not stopped the Instant Upload process, which I can only assume is because my new friend has not opened the Google+ app. For whatever reason, My Instant Upload service is now shared with a man in Guadalajara.Google has yet to respond to my requests for aid, but really I feel like the core problem here is with Google’s service. This device is able to upload photos to my account without my password, and I have no control over the device from here. I can’t de-authorize the phone remotely like I can with Google Music. I can’t remove the device remotely from my Google Account even if I wanted to. The lack of user control here creates a very different context when you have photos being instantly uploaded to a user account without the need for a password.Google’s whole business model is to take information it gets from me any apply it to advertising targeted specifically at me. When Google crawls my account, there are now more than sixty photos that have nothing to do with me or my interest. A woman with a bag of gold coins, or a few people holding a large bottle of Don Roberto tequila have nothing to do with me. What’s more is these photos are geotagged, which is also attached to my account. A city I have never been to inside a country I have never been to. A few weeks ago, one of my friends noticed that my Google Latitude said that I was in Guadalajara. Yet another service that has been affected, and yet another service that I can’t change remotely.I doubt that I am the first person on the planet to have this problem, though so far there doesn’t seem to be a solution.last_img