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9/14/09
Original Poster
meyangela

Can Google make an exception for libraries trying to set up email accounts for people?

I teach an intro to email class at a public library in SE Wisconsin and I would prefer to use Gmail as I think it is a superior email provider. However, now Gmail requires people to verify thier identity by sending a text message via SMS. Unfortunately, I can only do this 6 times using my phone number and most of our patrons do not have text messaging capabilities. Now I am forced to use a different email provider until Google lifts this restriction for people like me trying to do good and help people set up their first email account.
 
This is Google's response to the problem:

I don't have a mobile phone, can I sign up?

If you'd like to sign up for a Gmail address, you need to have a mobile phone that has text-messaging capabilities.
If you don't have a phone, you may want to ask a friend if you can use his or her number to receive a code.

One of the reasons we're offering this new way to sign up for Gmail is to help protect our users and combat abuse. Spam and abuse protection are two things we take very seriously, and our users have been very happy with the small amount of spam they've received in Gmail. We take many measures to ensure that spammers have a difficult time sending their spam messages, getting these messages delivered, or even obtaining a Gmail address (spammers will often use many different addresses to send spam). Sending invitation codes to mobile phones is one way to address this, as the number of addresses created per phone number can be limited.

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All Replies (11)
9/17/09
Expert - Google Employee
Shirley
Hi meyangela,

I'm sorry to hear that you've hit this roadbump using Gmail in your class. You are correct that SMS verification is designed to combat abuse. As a result, we unfortunately aren't able to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

In the future, I recommend assigning your students homework in which they create their own Gmail accounts before they attend class.

Cheers,
Shirley
Brickmeyer
1/21/10
Brickmeyer
It is ridiculous that I can no longer help people in my organization setup Google email accounts without using a Text Message.  I do not use Text Messages nor will I ever.  Text Messages cost money.  Either by a per use or by a package.  They are not free.

I have been a person that recommends Google for everything and that day has ended now.

Google's suggestion to my problem is to borrow someone's cell phone for the verification.  Not happening.

Google really screwed the pooch on this one.  My alternate email address should be enough verification.

Memarchetti
2/18/10
Memarchetti
THANK YOU, Meyangela!

I, too, teach internet & email classes at my library, and have been using Gmail for the email accounts my students create. The interface is easy to use, uncluttered, and easy to remember and find on the Google webpage.

Google Employee Shirley's recommendation that we "[assign] your students homework in which they create their own Gmail accounts before they attend class" is completely ridiculous! Shirley, they come to the library because they do not have computers at home. Many of these people do not have cell phones either! These "students" are not the technology-savvy young people you might think fit the label of "student"; these are middle-aged to elderly, (oftentimes non-English speaking, at my library) adults who are trying their hardest to keep up with technology, but keep hitting roadblock after roadblock.

Surely, there is some way Google can improve this. I don't think forcing everyone to get a text in order to get an email account is really going to combat spam or abuse. Increase the spam filters or something, but this is absolutely the wrong way to do things! I can't even "invite" people to use Gmail from my account, because (in case you missed it) THEY ARE TRYING TO SIGN UP FOR THEIR FIRST EMAIL ACCOUNT.

With all your genius minds and technology at Google, you can probably find some other way of combatting abuse. This text message business (or phone call, now, which is equally impossible in a public library) has got to go.
townsend003
5/7/10
townsend003
I have a similar problem.  At the school where I teach, the students were trying to sign up for Gmail accounts in order to use them for language classes and communicating with students from abroad.  However, the students kept getting "error" messages.  Some messages asked the students to verify the accounts with their mobile phone number.  The other "error" kept bringing students back to the sign-up page and asking them to re-enter their password and verification code.  Even after checking that these were correct and within the guidelines set by Gmail, they error kept occurring.  After the students had wasted an hour trying to sign up for accounts and getting very frustrated, we finally gave up.

I only found out later that it was because of the common i.p. address that students weren't able to sign up.  It seems rather irresponsible of Gmail not to provide the user with the information to let the user know what's happening.  Although it's not the best solution, Gmail could at least provide a simple message like "Signed up for too many email addresses at this location"; it would have saved my students a lot of time and frustration.

I'm a little disappointed that we now have find another email service and search engine for all our schools and students.  Does anyone have any recommendations?  Hotmail and MSN?  Yahoo?  Others?
PALibrarian
8/23/10
PALibrarian
I too am a librarian who has been using Gmail to teach patrons how to use email and helping patrons to set up new accounts.  Almost none of them use texting and most don't own cell phones or have another email account even.  I'm disappointed that Gmail cannot find a better way to prevent abuse of their system.  This really limits who can use their wonderful service to young, technologicaly savy clients.  Too bad!
5 MORE
danpr987
3/13/11
danpr987
"We would not be taking these measures if we had not found them to be very effective."

Yet, the current "must have phone" has been shown to be effective in preventing sign up in many cases, where students and other less financially endowed people would greatly benefit with a Google or Gmail account.

I've not seen a good defense of the current policy. Take the "use a friend's number" for example. A teach can have 30 or 100 students. The teacher's phone number cannot be used to create that many accounts, can it, Sarah? (Ask your engineers to give an answer to that problem.)

Also, you are failing to mention that the page where the phone number is asked for says that the number can be used later for account recovery. That is, if I sign up for a new Gmail account, and use my friend's phone number, then my friend (say we have an argument or something) can recover my account access himself. Isn't that right, Sarah?

It's nice to recommend that somebody get Google Apps, but you have to have a domain, and not many teachers can take the steps on their own. Unless your engineers have an answer for that, and if they do, I'd like to hear it.

I don't see any compelling arguments other than that the engineers want to do it this way, and they won't change their mind. Google should be a company promotes access to cloud computing for the less fortunate, not locks them out.

I and others used to be able to recommend "get a Gmail account, you will love it." We can't make that recommendation in good faith any more, not knowing the level of frustration that Google might arbitrarily dump on a new user signing up.
 
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