Behave on Google Plus or Your Gmail Gets ItS

One reason for Google Plus' explosive growth is its seamless integration into the other Google services everyone already relies on. But this might be its biggest downfall, too: If you screw up on Google Plus, you risk all your precious Google stuff being deleted forever.

Take the story of 10-year-old Alex. The precocious techie had a Gmail account since September 2009. But when he signed up for Google Plus last week and entered his age, he was kicked off not just Google Plus, but Gmail as well, for violating Google's terms of service requiring its users be over 13. All of his emails to grandma are going to be deleted, and his dad wrote an impassioned blog post accusing Google of making his son cry. Now the memory of young Alex's first BCC is lost forever.

Browsing Google's help forums shows there's something of a tween email apocalypse going on as kids are locked out of their Gmail after revealing they're underaged on Google Plus—despite some pretty thoughtful arguments from the kids themselves as to why they should be let in. (We agree!)

The kids should go outside and cherish an email-free life while they still can. But adults have also shared horror stories of being sentenced to total Google death for crossing Google Plus. A guy on Reddit complained this week that all of his emails, banking statement and personal documents had been disabled by Google "with no explanation." He was resurrected later, and we learned that Google likely disabled him for accidentally running a script that scraped a number of Google Plus accounts, in violation of Google's terms of services.

It's clear these people probably violated Google's terms of services, and Google has let less serious Google Plus offenders keep their gmail. But it still raises the question: Do you really want access to years of email and documents to hinge on your good behavior on Google's social playground? In using Google's stuff, we agree to abide by its terms of service. (You've all read and memorized Google's terms of service, right?) But Google Plus isn't like other Google services. It's a social network. A social networks is messy and subjective in a way email and word processing aren't, and its terms of service govern a much wider range of behavior.

If Google moderates Google Plus users' content with anything approaching the ham-fistedness of Facebook, you and your email might be deleted without warning for any number of slights, ranging from obviously bad to noble: Spamming, posting a 19th-century painting of a vagina, being William Shatner, or trying to organize a revolution in Egypt.

Hopefully Google will lay out some clear rules as to what kind of violations will get you locked out of your email, versus simply booted off of Google Plus. In the meantime, you'd best stick to posting cat videos and rave reviews of Google products under your real name. (Maybe post a copy of your driver's license to prove you're of age?) Everything you've ever given to Google could depend on it.