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Google will delete inactive accounts starting Dec. 1. Here's what you need to know

By NICK GARCIA Published Nov 14, 2023 3:53 pm

It's just less than a month before Google deletes inactive accounts, affecting content within Google Workspace (Gmail, Docs, Drive, Meet, Calendar) and Google Photos.

The tech giant’s cleanup starting Dec. 1 is part of its measures against cybersecurity threats.

Here's what you need to know to keep your account active and safe.

Why is Google deleting inactive accounts?

In a post last May, Google Vice President of Product Management Ruth Kricheli said 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."

Though Google has invested in technology and tools to protect users from spam, phishing scams, and account hijacking, Kricheli said an inactive account is still more likely to be compromised.

In an internal analysis, Google found abandoned accounts are at least 10 times less likely to have a two-step-verification setup than active accounts, becoming more susceptible to cybercrimes like identity theft.

What’s considered an inactive account?

According to Google, accounts that haven’t been used or signed into for at least two years are considered inactive.

It only applies to personal accounts and not those used by organizations like schools or businesses.

Google said it will take a “phased approach,” starting with accounts that were created and never used again.

Before deleting an account, it said it would send multiple notifications over the months leading up to deletion via the account’s email address and recovery email.

How can you keep your account safe and active?

Google said users may do the following to keep their accounts active:

  • Sign in at least once every two years
  • Read or send an email
  • Use Google Drive
  • Watch a YouTube video
  • Download an app on the Google Play Store
  • Use Google Search
  • Use Sign In with Google to sign in to a third-party app or service

Google noted that it doesn’t plan to delete accounts with YouTube videos. Users must also specifically sign in to Google Photos every two years to be considered active, ensuring no content is deleted.

Google also advised users to provide a recovery email at sign-up.

Users may also download and export data via the Takeout feature and Inactive Account Manager, which allow users to decide what happens to their account and data when it becomes inactive for a period of up to 18 months. Options include sending specific files to trusted contacts of their choosing, applying a Gmail autoresponder, and deleting their account entirely.