Starting on Friday, December 1st, Google will mass delete old user accounts if they have been inactive for at least two years.
The Silicon Valley Tech Giant announced this policy change in May. The deletion will includes wiping all content associated with an account, which could be Gmail, Drive, Google Photos and Docs files.
With billions of users worldwide (Gmail alone had 1.5 billion users in 2019 already), it is expected that this move will free a massive amount of storage space on Google's servers - but it will also affect a massive amount of people. As more and more unused accounts pile up, Google will now start to delete the old accounts from its databases.
The revised policy only affects personal accounts. If an account has not been used or signed in for at least two years, it may be deleted. This also applies to content in Google Workspace, YouTube and Google Photos. However, the change does not affect accounts belonging to organisations such as schools or businesses.
After two years without a login: Google will delete old photos and Gmail content next week.
Google explains that the policy change is necessary as inactive Google accounts are more prone of falling victim to malicious attacks, including identity theft. "Once an account is compromised, it can be used for anything from identity theft to sending unwanted or even malicious content like spam," writes Google manager Ruth Kricheli to explain. Google writes in their statement as to why they are now deleting inactive accounts:
"This is because forgotten or unattended accounts often rely on old or re-used passwords that may have been compromised, haven't had two factor authentication set up, and receive fewer security checks by the user. Our internal analysis shows abandoned accounts are at least 10x less likely than active accounts to have 2-step-verification set up. Meaning, these accounts are often vulnerable, and once an account is compromised, it can be used for anything from identity theft to a vector for unwanted or even malicious content, like spam."
In other words: Google now strongly recommends that people set up two-step verification to secure their accounts, which old accounts with two years of inactivity do not have.
The open question, however, that many are asking now: Is Google going to recycle email addresses?? Because if so, this could open a whole other attack vector for identity theft. If third parties could register your unused email address, they can also take over any account linked to that email address by using the standard the password reset option via email that most services offer.
In their statement, Google does not say whether they are going to free up unused Gmail addresses for new registrations.
For precisely that reasons, Tuta does not recycle email addresses.
Before closing old user accounts, Google is sending out warnings - to users' Gmail address as well as to other email addresses they connected with their Google account, for example to the recovery email address for resetting their password. Google wants to start deleting so-called disposable accounts that were created once but never used again.
The easiest way to keep a Google Account active is to sign in at least once every two years. If users have an existing paid subscription through their Google Account, this is also considered account activity and the account remains untouched. Users should also sign in to Google Photos every two years to ensure that their photos and other content are not deleted.
By signing in regularly, you make sure that your account stays active and that no data gets deleted.
If you want to take precautions in the event of your own illness or death, you can use the account inactivity manager from Google. Here you can specify that the account should be transferred to a trusted person or deleted after a predetermined period of time.
For many people, a large part of their online life is linked to their Google account: from YouTube playlists and Gmail messages to Android backups so making sure that this data is not lost, is crucial.
If you are receiving too many (spam) emails in your Gmail, it's time for a fresh start anyway, as this user posted.
Most people are not worried about their Google account being deleted due to inactivity, but are annoyed by receiving too many emails, newsletters and spam mails. In addition, Google - and Gmail in particular - is constantly increasing the amount of annoying ads.
If you are one of many ready to leave Google, you can start looking for a private Gmail alternative!