Why gmail@isnoop.net is your recovery email address

5 Feb

gmail.pngEach year I receive angry or confused messages from a person who  found gmail@isnoop.net as the recovery email address in their Google account.  This post is intended to explain why.

In 2005, Gmail was a brand new service and was invite-only.  Google had been slowly meting out invites, but many people with accounts had given invites to everyone they knew and so the invites started piling up.  At the same time, many other folks really wanted Gmail accounts and didn’t know any of the fortunate souls with a surplus of invites.  Thus, I created the Gmail Invite Spooler to help connect those with extra invites with those who needed one.

The primary means of getting invites into the spooler was to use Google’s “Invite a Friend” feature where you would enter your friend’s email address and Google would email them a special link that allowed access to the account creation page.  The email address that received these invites and added them to the spooler was gmail@isnoop.net.  Google hadn’t anticipated a centralized invite clearing house, so for a long time they automatically added the email address to which the invite was sent as the account’s secondary email.  Their reasoning was sound: Clearly this email address worked and it apparently belonged to the person who used the invite, so why not assume it is a decent secondary contact address?

Shortly after the spooler shut down, the system emails started pouring in.  The account gmail@isnoop.net had never been an address I checked manually, but I quickly got alerts that the mailbox was over limits.  Being a secondary recovery email address for so many users meant that there were now gobs of password reset notifications, recovery attempts, and other system notifications arriving each day.  I quickly changed the account to a bitbucket so that all inbound mail is immediately discarded.  I don’t want the responsibility of being a manual account recovery mechanism.

I’ve contacted Google in the past about doing a mass update which removes gmail@isnoop.net from everyone’s Google account, to no direct avail.  However, Google is aware of the problem and they do urge users to check the settings from time to time.  You may have seen a prompt in your Gmail account saying something like:

“Hey, this is important: If you ever lose access to your account, you can send password reset info to …”


“What would happen if you lost access to your Google Account tomorrow?”

I urge everyone to double-check their Google recovery email address.  Trust me, it’s two minutes you probably won’t regret.  Odds are, you probably have an old ISP or Hotmail account in there that doesn’t work anymore and fixing it now will save you lots of headaches later.


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