Gmail bug leaves thousands of accounts empty

Gmail users are complaining of a bug that has seen their stored e-mails and address book contents wiped out, with thousands of accounts thought to be affected.

Users are reporting that a bug in Google's popular webmail service struck late last night, resulting in the deletion of all saved e-mail and the entire contents of their address books - a major problem for users with Android smartphones, which sync the on-device address book with Gmail.

According to Google, the flaw affected a tiny proportion - around 0.08 per cent - of Gmail accounts, but given the popularity of the service that still equates to thousands of accounts and potentially millions of e-mail messages.

Engineers at the company have been working through the night to restore access to address books and e-mails, and the flaw isn't thought to have permanently deleted anything. According to the company's last status update, some users should find their messages restored to their rightful place - and the remainder of users will hopefully find their accounts put back to rights soon.

The incident, which isn't the first such bug to hit Google's web-based services, highlights one of the biggest issues surrounding the move to 'cloud' computing models: through no fault of your own, access to content you had considered safe can suddenly disappear.