Google has announced plans to start permanently deleting Gmail accounts that have been inactive for over two years. This new policy promises to impact millions of dormant accounts as Google takes more aggressive steps to tighten security.
Previously, Google would simply erase the content of unused accounts while keeping the accounts themselves intact. But now Google will fully remove accounts untouched for more than 24 months, along with associated Google services data.
Two Years of Inactivity Triggers Removal
Specifically, under the updated inactive account policy, if a Gmail account goes unused for two years, Google may delete the account itself and all related Google Workspace content. This includes files in Google Drive, meetings in Google Meet, and documents in Google Docs.
YouTube subscriptions and Google Photos libraries linked to the account would also face removal. The two-year inactivity deadline will go into effect starting in mid-2023.
Google Cites Security Benefits of Deletion
Google says permanently deleting inactive accounts improves overall security. Internal analyses found neglected accounts are much more likely to lack proper protections.
Forgotten accounts tend to have weaker passwords, lack two-factor authentication, and rarely get security updates from users. This makes them prime targets for hackers.
By proactively deleting stale accounts, Google aims to reduce vulnerabilities that could be exploited in bulk by cybercriminals. The company determined outright removal is warranted to protect both users and Google itself.
Notifications Will Warn Users Before Removal
Before deleting accounts, Google plans to send multiple notifications over several months. Warnings will go to account holders through both the Gmail address and any secondary email on file.
This gives users ample opportunity to log in and reactivate accounts. But for untouched accounts, the warnings will likely go unseen, resulting in eventual removal.
Simple Steps to Stay Active
To avoid losing access, users just need to log into their Google account once every two years. Even basic actions like checking Gmail or watching YouTube will qualify as activity.
Setting calendar reminders to periodically sign in can help prevent accounts from going dormant. Backing up data through Google Takeout is also recommended.
Overall, while the policy may inconvenience some who abandon old accounts, Google feels preventing misuse of inactive accounts takes priority. But through warnings and activity prompts, most users should be able to easily keep accounts current.