Google Deleted Millions of Accounts Last Year: Here’s How to Keep Yours

Your high school Google account might be in peril, along with any other account that hasn't been touched in two years.

Google’s long-planned cull of inactive accounts offically took place in December 2023. But accounts will continue to be deleted, and the company encourages users to take action.

To be considered active on the platform, users simply need to sign into their accounts every two years. So if you use Gmail, Photos, Calendar, and Docs on a regular basis, you can relax in the knowledge that you’re safe from the purge. 

The aim of the policy is to reduce the number of accounts that Google deems vulnerable to security threats like spam, phishing scams, and account hijacking.

How to keep your account safe

Google’s updated inactive account policy from earlier this year will kick into action in December, with the phased deletion of inactive Google accounts. It will specifically target accounts that were created and never used again, or accounts that haven’t been touched in over two years.

The tech giant has been busy sending multiple notifications over the past few months to both the account’s email address and recovery email, if shared. So if you haven’t received one of these, or you have but you’ve already taken action, then there’s no need to worry.

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In a statement, Google said: “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) and Google Photos.”

This means the easiest way to keep a Google Account active is to sign in at least once every two years, or use the services. Activity can include:

  • using Google Search
  • reading or sending an email
  • watching a YouTube video
  • using Google Drive
  • downloading an App from the Google Play Store
  • having an existing subscription set up through Google Account, for example to Google One
  • using Sign in with Google to sign in from a third-party app or service.

Inactive Accounts More Likely to be Targeted by Fraudsters

The reasoning behind the action is to mitigate the risk of being targeted by fraudsters, scammers, and hackers – of which inactive accounts are most susceptible to. 

Following its own analysis, the company stated that inactive accounts are also at least ten times less likely to have 2-step verification set up, as opposed to active accounts. 

Google warned: “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.”

You can minimize the risk of reusing passwords with a Password Manager.

Google Policy Applies to Personal Accounts Only

The company went on to confirm that the policy applies only to personal accounts. Entities such as schools or businesses don’t need to worry about such due diligence just yet, as the update also aims to limit the amount of time Google retains unused personal information.

It’s worth knowing that there are currently no plans to delete accounts with YouTube videos.

If you’re free from risk of deletion, it’s always worth checking in on your account security and health anyway. As per Google’s recommendation, ensure your recovery email is up to date and think about backing up your data to other platforms via the Takeout feature.

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Written by:
Ellis Di Cataldo (MA) has over 9 years experience writing about, and for, some of the world’s biggest tech companies. She's been the lead writer across digital campaigns, always-on content and worldwide product launches, for global brands including Sony, Electrolux, Byrd, The Open University and Barclaycard. Her particular areas of interest are business trends, startup stories and product news.
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