As part of its ongoing effort to ensure the safety and security of the products and services to safeguard users, Google has recently updated its policy on inactive accounts.
According to Google, accounts that remain unused for extended periods are more susceptible to compromise. This vulnerability arises because forgotten or neglected accounts often rely on outdated or reused passwords that may have already been compromised. Also, these accounts frequently lack two-factor authentication and receive fewer security checks to protect users.
Google says its internal analysis reveals that abandoned accounts are at least 10 times less likely than active accounts to have two-step verification enabled. Consequently, such accounts are frequently exposed to risk. Once an account is compromised, it can be exploited in a number of ways, ranging from identity theft to becoming a conduit for unwanted or malicious content like spam.
To lessen this risk, Google has introduced an updated inactivity policy for Google Accounts across all its products. Starting later this year, if a Google Account remains unused or unlogged into for a period of at least 2 years, Google may delete the account and its contents, including data stored within Google Workspace such as Gmail, Docs, Drive, Meet, Calendar, and Google Photos.
While the policy went into May 16, it will not immediately impact users with inactive accounts; the earliest Google will start deleting accounts is December 2023. Google will adopt a phased approach, starting with accounts that were created but have remained unused.
Before proceeding with the deletion of an account, Google will send multiple notifications over several months leading up to the deletion date. These notifications will be sent to both the account email address and the recovery email address, if one has been provided.
To ensure your account stays active, you need to sign in at least once every 2 years. If you have recently signed into any Google Account, your account will be considered active and will not be deleted. Examples of account activity include reading or sending emails, using Google Drive, watching YouTube videos, downloading apps from the Google Play Store, conducting searches on Google, and utilizing “Sign in with Google” to access third-party apps or services.
Furthermore, if you have an existing subscription set up through your Google Account, such as Google One, a news publication, or an app, this account activity will ensure that your account remains unaffected.
At this time, Google has no plans to delete accounts that contain YouTube videos.
Elon Musk had announced on May 8 a similar policy for Twitter: “We’re purging accounts that have had no activity at all for several years…” When challenged about this, Musk clarified his position by saying that purged accounts will be “archived”.
Nathan Muller is the author of 29 technical books and over 3,000 articles that have appeared in 75 publications worldwide. He also writes articles, blogs and social media content for tech companies and their executives.