The Dirty Secret of Google Apps

Before you click that submit button to sign up for Google Apps for your domain, burn this into your brain right now:

If you ever think about letting your domain expire, this doesn’t destroy your Google Apps account. You must cancel this service as well.

Any future registrant of your domain, if they determine you had Google Apps – and it is a trivial process – all it takes is a couple of days and they will have full control of whatever information resided there – which includes Google Apps email archives, Google App Docs and more.

I don’t blame Google for this, this isn’t a hit piece on them and they shouldn’t be policing the expiration of domain names from Google Apps accounts.

It is no secret that I buy and sell domains. I’m not as active as I once was, but I still browse the drop lists for expired domains and actively search new domains with keywords of up-and-coming business/tech and terms in the news.

In the last 6 months alone, I’ve picked up 3 domains1 that I realized, after the fact, had Google Apps accounts configured. Between those 3 domains, and before I deleted the Google Apps accounts, I had access to 37 email accounts and their archives. A cursory look through a few of those accounts and assuming people lagged behind in changing the email address associated with their accounts, I could have likely found a way to access:

  • Cell Phone Accounts
  • LinkedIn Profiles
  • Facebook & Twitter Acccounts
  • Affiliate Network Accounts
  • An Ashley Madison Account (hmmm)2
  • Business Plans
  • Apple ID & iTunes Account
  • Hundreds of Contacts
  • And more, you get the idea

Like I said, I deleted the accounts associated with these domains. Mainly because I would hope someone would do the same for me, but also because there was some temptation to dig for some competitive information that I didn’t feel right doing. I removed the temptation and kept the ethical compass pointing north, mostly north.

Before you let any domain expire, audit its past usage and clean up the loose ends so they don’t come back to bite you.


1 Don’t ask, I’m not revealing which domains they were.
2 A married, and from what I gathered, a prominent business person in his city.

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