The first message, posted on the Google Groups forum on December 19, stated “Found my account clean..nothing in Inbox, contacts ,sent mail..How can all these information residing in different folders disappear? ..How to write to gmail help team to restore the account..is it possible?..Where to report this abuse?.Any help ..Welcome..Thanks in advance ps101”
Other Gmail users then added to the conversation, saying that their emails had been deleted as well. Most of the users reported using Firefox 2.0 and that Gmail was open in their browser when the deletions occured.
The cause of the problem isn’t clear. One user wrote that after the deletion they received the following message: “This is not a mistake. All your emails and contacts have been deleted on purpose. This was a malicious attack and not an error. Have a nice day. =)” One user pointed to a known security issue with Firefox 2.0, which was fixed in 18.104.22.168.
On December 22, four days after the initial incident was reported, a Google representative posted this message on the thread:
Thank you all for reporting this issue. We apologize for the scare and
inconvenience that it’s causing. We’re actively investigating as we
speak, and we’ll follow up individually with users in this thread as we
get to the bottom of the problem.
We appreciate your patience and understanding.
Google’s official policy is that once emails are deleted, they are gone forever. And based on the Google Groups thread, no one has been able to have their Gmail accounts restored to pre-deletion status.
Update: A representative from Google just sent the following email:
Hi there TechCrunch folks,
We saw your post today about Gmail and wanted to let you know what was going on.
Regretfully, a small number of our users — around 60 — lost some or all of their email received prior to December 18th. Once we found out about this issue, we worked day and night to confirm that only a few accounts were affected and to do whatever we could to restore as much of the users’ accounts as we could. We’ve also reached out to the people who were affected to apologize and to work with them to restore the email from any personal backup they might have.
We know how important Gmail is to our users – we use it ourselves for our corporate email. We have extensive safeguards in place to protect email stored with Gmail and we are confident that this is a small and isolated incident.