Google has announced on May 16, 2023, a significant update to its inactive account policies aimed at boosting the security of its users. The tech giant is committed to ensuring that the products and services users access online are both safe and secure. To further these goals, Google has introduced numerous tools and technologies designed to safeguard users from security threats such as spam, phishing scams, and account hijacking.

Despite these measures, Google recognizes that an account left unused for an extended period becomes more susceptible to compromise. Neglected accounts, which often employ outdated or reused passwords, are less likely to have two-factor authentication set up and hence receive fewer security checks by the user. Google’s internal data reveals that dormant accounts are 10 times less likely than active accounts to have 2-step-verification set up, making them particularly vulnerable.

To mitigate these risks, Google has decided to revise its inactivity policy for Google Accounts, setting a two-year expiration period across its services. Beginning later this year, if a Google Account remains untouched or not signed into for at least two years, Google reserves the right to delete the account and its contents. This deletion includes data within Google Workspace applications (Gmail, Docs, Drive, Meet, Calendar) and Google Photos.

However, the updated policy only impacts personal Google Accounts and will not affect organizational accounts belonging to schools or businesses. This amendment aligns Google’s policy with industry standards concerning data retention and account deletion, thereby limiting the duration Google retains unused personal information.

Google plans a cautious, phased rollout of the updated policy, accompanied by plenty of advance notice:

  • Although the policy goes into effect immediately, the earliest date for account deletion is December 2023.
  • The process begins with accounts that were created but never used again.
  • Google will send multiple notifications months prior to account deletion to both the account email address and the recovery email, if one has been provided.

Keeping Your Account Active

Keeping a Google Account active is as simple as signing in at least once every two years. If you’ve recently logged into your Google Account or used any of its services, your account is considered active and will not be deleted. Actions indicating account activity could include:

  • Reading or sending an email
  • Using Google Drive
  • Watching a YouTube video
  • Downloading an app on Google Play Store
  • Using Google Search
  • Using Sign in with Google for a third-party app or service

Current subscriptions through Google Account, such as Google One, a news publication, or an app, also counts as account activity, preventing deletion. At this time, Google has no plans to delete accounts containing YouTube videos.

As announced previously, users will need to specifically sign in to Google Photos every two years to ensure their photos and other content are not deleted. Google promises to send multiple notifications before taking any action.

Backing Up Your Account and Its Content

Google urges users to provide a recovery email at sign-up and keep it updated in the account settings. Google offers several free tools to manage your account and create data backups.

Data can be downloaded and exported to other platforms through Google’s Takeout feature, which has been in place for over a decade. The Inactive Account Manager allows users to determine the fate of their account and data if they become inactive for up to 18 months. Options include:

  • Sending specific files to trusted contacts
  • Applying a Gmail autoresponder
  • Deleting their account entirely

This update represents a significant step forward in account security, underscoring Google’s commitment to keep users’ private information private. For more information, visit Google’s Help Center. An updated post has clarified how this announcement impacts creator accounts and accounts with YouTube videos.