Google will delete millions of inactive Gmail accounts next month as part of a major security update.
Users who haven’t used their account for at least two years face losing access to their inbox and everything stored within it – including photos and videos.
Announcing the new policy in May, Google said it would send multiple notifications to users whose accounts will be deleted, and has now begun this process ahead of the purge – which starts on December 1.
‘We are updating our inactivity policy for Google Accounts to two years across our products,’ said Google’s vice president of product management Ruth Kricheli in May.
‘This update aligns our policy with industry standards around retention and account deletion and also limits the amount of time Google retains your unused personal information.’
The tech giant’s move is in response to security concerns.
Abandoned accounts are often vulnerable to attack, both because they are less likely to have two-factor authentication enabled, and because they typically use old passwords that may have been subject to a security breach, meaning they could be available on the dark web.
If an attacker gains access to an inactive account, they may be able to use it to access other accounts or to spread malware.
What is an inactive account?
Google defines an inactive account as ‘an account that has not been used within a two-year period. Google reserves the right to delete an inactive Google Account and its activity and data if you are inactive across Google for at least two years.’
This means the account has not been used in any form within that period.
However, announcing the policy, Google said accounts that had been used to upload YouTube videos would not be deleted.
How can I save my Gmail account?
Logging into your account isn’t enough to save it – you need to use it.
Google suggests taking one of the following actions:
- Reading or sending an email
- Using Google Drive
- Watching a YouTube video
- Sharing a photo
- Downloading an app
- Using Google Search
- Using Sign in with Google to sign in to a third-party app or service
It adds that activity is demonstrated by account, not device, meaning it doesn’t matter where you generate activity in your account, as long as you use it.
This also means if you have more than one account on a single device, you must make sure both are active.
Are there any exceptions?
Yes, in some cases even if you haven’t logged into Gmail and used any functions, your account may still be saved if it fits any of the following criteria:
- Your Google Account was used to make a purchase of a Google product, app, service, or subscription that is current or ongoing
- Your Google Account contains a gift card with a monetary balance
- Your Google Account owns a published application or game with ongoing, active subscriptions or active financial transactions associated with them. This might be a Google Account that owns an App on the Google Play store
- Your Google Account manages an active minor account with Family Link
- Your Google Account has been used to purchase a digital item, for example, a book or movie