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Google Apologizes For Terrible April Fools' Day Prank

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 1/04/2016 Damon Beres
ATHENA IMAGE © Gustavo Caballero via Getty Images ATHENA IMAGE

Google apologized Friday for an April Fools' Day prank that inadvertently caused some users to send animated GIFs of "Minion" characters in important emails.

"Well, it looks like we pranked ourselves this year," Google software engineer Victor-bogdan Anchidin wrote in a blog post

The company had attempted to mark the day with a temporary Gmail feature called Mic Drop. The feature added an orange "Send" button that would add to your message an animation of a Minion dropping a microphone and automatically archive any responses -- giving you the illusion of the last word in any conversation you were participating in.

The button looked similar to the regular Send button, and they were right next to each other. It also replaced a "Send and Archive" button that some Gmail users enable.

One Gmail user claims to have lost a job because of the prank.

"Due to a bug, the Mic Drop feature inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs,"Anchidin also wrote. "We’re truly sorry."

Whatever your thoughts on the joke, it's a good reminder that Gmail -- free as it might be -- isn't a public service. It's a privately owned product subject to the impulses of corporate enterprise. And yes, many of us are accustomed to our entire lives revolving around it.

We've run into problems like this before. In December, Brazilian officials managed to shut down the Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp, cutting many people off from their primary means of communication.

At the time, cybersecurity expert Bruce Schneier raised a couple of important points to The Huffington Post.

"You should be concerned that Facebook can without any due process kick you off their network. You should be concerned that Gmail can lock you out of your email. You should be concerned that the U.S. government can spy on anyone," Schneier said.

"All of these things can happen without knowledge or consent. We are giving these companies an enormous amount of power over our digital selves and therefore our lives," he added.

The postal service is obligated to deliver your mail. Google is not obligated to provide you a free email service, nor an email service that's free from bad April Fool's Day pranks. 

That's a sobering thought, considering how many of us rely on it. As of February, it's estimated that 1 billion people use Gmail worldwide.

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