Google will delete accounts that have been inactive for more than two years

Google has updated its policy for personal accounts across its services to allow a maximum of two years of inactivity.

After this time has passed, the accounts “may” be deleted, along with all of their content, settings, preferences, and saved user data. This includes all data stored on services like Gmail, Docs, Drive, Meet, Calendar, Google Photos, and YouTube.

However, this new policy will not apply to Google accounts for organizations such as schools or businesses.

Google says the policy change is intended to boost online security, as inactive accounts often fall prey to account theft, usually due to old, weak passwords and a lack of additional security measures.

“Starting later this year, if a Google Account has not been used or signed into for at least two years, we may delete the account and its contents,” said Ruth Crichelli, Google’s vice president of product management.

Our internal analysis shows that abandoned accounts are at least 10 times less likely to set up 2-Step Verification than active accounts.

Meaning, these accounts are often vulnerable, and once an account is hacked, it can be used for anything from identity theft to a vector of unwanted or even malicious content, such as spam.

The new policy will take effect immediately, and the first accounts that reach the new inactivity threshold will be deleted in December 2023.

However, this does not mean that all users who have not used their Google accounts for two years or more will have their accounts deleted by the end of the year.

Google says it will start with accounts that have never been used after they are created and will take careful, phased steps from then on.

Also, affected account holders will receive multiple notifications months before account deletion occurs on provided recovery emails so that they can take timely actions.

How to avoid deleting your account

Many people like to backup for cases when their primary Google account is not accessible, or they need an account for testing purposes.

These accounts are rarely used, but their owners may need to keep them for their reasons.

Google says that taking any of the following actions with these accounts will reset the activity counter to zero:

  • Read or send an email
  • using Google Drive
  • Watch a YouTube video
  • Download an app from the Google Play Store
  • using google search
  • Use Sign in with Google to sign in to a third-party app or service

Of course, account holders must perform one of the above procedures every two years. However, Google will continue to send warning notices in the future to reduce the possibility of sudden deletion.

Also, owners of backup accounts that remain idle for long periods of time should ensure that they use a strong password, enable two-factor authentication, and update their recovery information.

Finally, account owners can back up all their data using Google’s Takeout system or the Inactive Account Manager tool to determine what happens after 18 months of inactivity.

The belief that Google accounts will last indefinitely has led countless individuals to rely on them for professional or personal purposes.

Many naively assumed their Google accounts were invulnerable, treating them as permanent repositories of their digital lives.

However, as Google made clear with this policy update, years of emails, attachments, and profiles could be gone if users fail to heed the warning and sign in before the deadline.

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