Google To Cull Inactive Accounts At Year End

Search engine giant Google says it will begin to delete inactive accounts unused for more than two years, starting in December

Alphabet’s Google division has announced a change for its inactive account policies, and warned that inactive accounts are to be deleted.

In a blog post on Tuesday, Google said it would delete accounts that had remained unused for two years starting December, in an effort to minimise security threats, including possible hacks.

It comes after Elon Musk last week had said Twitter would “purge” accounts that have been inactive for several years and archive them. He said that the action was “important to free up abandoned handles.”

Inactive accounts

Ruth Kricheli, Google’s VP Product Management in the blog post wrote that “if an account hasn’t been used for an extended period of time, it is more likely to be compromised.”

“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,” wrote Kricheli.

Indeed, she cited Google’s internal analysis that 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.

“To reduce this risk, we are updating our inactivity policy for Google Accounts to 2 years across our products,” wrote Kricheli. “Starting later this year, if a Google Account has not been used or signed into for at least 2 years, we may delete the account and its contents – including content within Google Workspace (Gmail, Docs, Drive, Meet, Calendar), YouTube and Google Photos.”

Kricheli wrote this policy only applies to personal Google Accounts, and will not affect accounts for organisations like schools or businesses.

Kricheli wrote that Google is going to roll this out slowly and carefully, with plenty of notice. Beginning in December 2023, Google will take a phased approach, starting with accounts that were created and never used again.

Before deleting an account, Google will send multiple notifications over the months leading up to deletion, to both the account email address and the recovery email (if one has been provided).

Active accounts

Kricheli wrote that the simplest way to keep a Google Account active is to sign-in at least once every 2 years.

“If you have signed into your Google Account or any of our services recently, your account is considered active and will not be deleted,” she wrote. “Activity might include these types of actions you take when you sign in or while you’re signed in to your Google Account:

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

In 2020, Google had said it would remove content stored in an inactive account, but not delete the account itself.