Last week I discovered that Google and Microsoft have changed their requirements for creating an email address. They now insist on a user to include their phone number or a secondary email address. So if you have no other email to add and cannot afford the luxury of a cell phone, you effectively cannot create an email. In short, Google and Microsoft would appear to be excluding the poor from communicating digitally in 2019.
As an Employment Counsellor working with those in receipt of social assistance, I find myself instructing 12 recipients in the basics of computers. One of the key reasons we include such a course where I work is to empower these people with email so they can communicate for both pleasure and professionally. As most of you know, employer’s are insisting potential applicants apply online for the jobs they need to fill, thus learning to use the computer to construct resumes and apply online is critically important.
So imagine my surprise when I had all 12 create a professional address and we couldn’t circumnavigate the phone number requirement. I mean yes, I could have had them put in my work email, but then I’d either have to be the one to get verification emails moving forward on their behalf, or then show them how to change the email to a secondary one later on, overly complicating what should be a simple process.
Listen up Google; listen up Microsoft: not all the poor can afford cell phones. Your new policies are effectively denying them access to what is now a basic communication tool. I’m hoping your intent was good and just not well thought out.
This weekend I felt it ironic as I googled, ‘make an email without a phone’. The solution it gave me was to use Google Chrome and go incognito mode (this is great for those experiencing paranoia by the way) then bypass the phone field and lie about one’s age making the person under 15 years old. Apparently the big boys assume 15 and under users don’t have their own cell phones. Today all the people in my class are going to revert back to being young teens. But should we have to do this?
Now of course I’ll have to tell the people I’m teaching that in order to recover any lost email access, they’ll have to remember this fictitious date of birth too. When they write down their password and email, now they’ll also need to record their made up date of birth. I think algorithms are going to be skewed in the future when more and more people say they were born on January 1 2006. Hey, am I becoming a hacker? No, not in the sense I’m trying to sabotage a system. I’m just trying to work around a problem; a problem that shouldn’t exist.
So Microsoft and Google, I’m hoping my readers pass on my blog today to their own audiences until it reaches your attention and you address this problem of your making.
I’m open to being wrong on this one too. As I stood in the classroom with 12 people looking at me as the computer instructor – oh and with a College placement student equally lost and frustrated at trying to get a workaround on the spot, maybe I missed something. I didn’t though. The phone field is mandatory unless you have a secondary email. Someone learning how to use the computer for the first time who taps the keys with one finger and takes an introduction to computers class just doesn’t have a secondary email though.
So, on behalf of the poor, I’m advocating for you two as leaders in the tech world to get it right. Which one of you – Google or Microsoft – will amend it first and get it right?
Those living in poverty often can’t afford cell phone plans on top of paying rent, buying food and getting around. Those that do have phones often have no time on their phones or very little on their data plans. Most don’t have personal computers or laptops and those that do often can’t afford the internet. So they resort to libraries, community resource centres and the generosity of friends when they do go online.
To reach financial independence and break free of poverty, they need jobs. To get a job, one must apply online, do internet research, attach a resume to an email; you get the point. This digital world we live in has to include everyone. Most of us who are computer literate don’t fully appreciate how fortunate we are to have these basic skills. We take for granted the ability to go online, email and have conversations with distant family and friends.
Like I said, educate me and inform me of my misinterpretation of your phone/previous email requirements. How does one without either actually create an email and join in on the digital world?
This isn’t about me shaming anyone, but it is about calling you out on this practice and asking you politely to be accountable. LOVE to get not just an explanation of your motives, but rather a drop in the mandatory phone field. Get back to making it optional.
Until resolved, there’s going to be a lot of 15 year old and younger new users, suddenly exploding onto the digital world.
The impoverished already feel marginalized and excluded, and Google and Microsoft…for all your billions of dollars, you’re both better than that.