Google updated its personal account policy across its services to allow for a maximum inactivity period of two years.
After this time, the accounts “may” be deleted, along with all their content, settings, preferences and data saved by the user. This includes all data stored on services such as Gmail, Docs, Drive, Meet, Calendar, Google Photos and YouTube.
However, this new policy will not apply to Google Accounts of organizations such as schools or businesses.
Google says the policy change is aimed at improving online security, as inactive accounts often fall prey to account takeovers, usually due to old and weak passwords and a lack of additional security measures.
“Starting this year, if a Google Account hasn’t been used or signed in for at least 2 years, we may delete the account and its content,” said Ruth Kricheli, Google vice president for product management.
“Our internal analysis shows that abandoned accounts are at least 10x less likely than active accounts to have 2-step verification set up.
“This means these accounts are often vulnerable, and once an account is compromised it can be used for anything from identity theft to vectoring unwanted or even malicious content, such as spam.”
The new policy will take effect immediately and the first accounts to 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 Account for two years or more will have their accounts deleted by the end of the year.
Google says it will start with never-used accounts after they are created and take careful, gradual steps from there.
Additionally, affected account holders will receive multiple notifications months prior to account deletion on the recovery emails provided so that they can take action in time.
How to avoid deletion of your account
Many people like to keep a backup for when their primary Google account becomes inaccessible, or they need it for testing purposes.
These accounts may be rarely used, but their owners may still need to keep them for their reasons.
Google says doing any of the following actions using these accounts will reset the activity counter to zero:
- Read or send an e-mail
- 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 actions every two years. Nevertheless, Google will continue to send warnings in the future to minimize the likelihood of surprise deletions.
Additionally, owners of backup accounts that remain inactive for long periods of time should ensure they use a strong password, enable two-factor authentication, and update their recovery information.
The belief that Google Accounts would last forever has led countless people to use them for business or personal purposes.
Many had naively assumed their Google Accounts were invulnerable, treating them as seemingly eternal repositories for their digital lives.
However, as Google has demonstrated with this policy update, years of emails, attachments and personal files could go missing if users ignore the warning and log in before the deadline.