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Earlier this year, Google announced that it would be revising its inactive account policies to clean up old Gmail and other Google accounts that haven’t been used for an extended period. At the time, the company gave fair warning that it wouldn’t begin enforcing this policy until December 1, 2023, hopefully providing enough time for anyone affected to notice the change and clean things up.
Of course, things move fast on the internet, and with so much information coming through every day on social media and news feeds, it’s easy for this to get missed. It’s also likely many people — ourselves included — noticed it, figured six months was plenty of time, and then promptly forgot.
To be clear, Google isn’t going to throw a master switch at midnight tonight and immediately purge all inactive accounts. The company has promised a “phased approach” that will begin with the least-used accounts — specifically “those that were created and never used again.”
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After all, if somebody signs up for a Gmail account and never actually logs into it or sends any mail from it, there’s a very good chance it won’t be missed. Still, it would be a good idea to go through your notes and make sure that you don’t have anything that you might have forgotten about but still need information from, as it’s hard to say when the nullifying field will actually reach your old Gmail inbox.
While Google’s reasons for doing this may seem readily apparent — simply getting old cruft out of their systems — there’s another angle. Old and unused accounts pose a security risk by serving as launching-off points for scammers, spammers, and hackers.
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. Google
They can also put users at risk of identity theft. For example, if someone created an old Gmail account years ago and abandoned it when moving on rather than closing it properly, that account may still contain personal information that could be used against them — and might even still be listed as an alternate contact or recovery address for other online accounts.
That’s why it’s always important to clean out your mailbox and officially close your account when switching email providers, whether that’s Gmail, Outlook, or even iCloud.
What Google Accounts Are Affected?
Google is drawing the line at two years across all of its products, so this includes not just Gmail but also extends to Google Drive, Meet, Calendar, Docs, Photos, and more.
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.Google
That makes sense since all these services are under the umbrella of a single Google Account, so if the account is deleted, it will take everything with it. That includes many other things, such as your YouTube playlists and viewing history. The good news is that Google says it won’t delete any accounts that contain YouTube videos, so those alone will keep your old account safe for the time being.
Despite the reference to Google Workspace, the company has made it clear that the policy applies only to personal Google Accounts, not those that are part of an organization such as a school or business. Those accounts are managed by the organizational administrator, so it’s up to them which ones should be retained or purged, and the Google Workspace Admin console provides tools to facilitate this.
What If I Want to Keep My Old Google Account?
The good news is that it doesn’t take much to ensure that Google considers your account “active” and ineligible for the chopping block.
Even if you have a secondary Google account that you rarely use, as long as you’ve logged into it at least once in the past two years and done something as basic as reading an email or watching a YouTube video, it’s still an “active” account.
Hence, if you have an old, forgotten Gmail account lying around, you can make a quick visit to Google’s website, log into Gmail and open a message, send a message, or head over to YouTube while logged in and watch your favorite cat video. Even using Google Search while logged in qualifies as account activity, as does using it to sign in to third-party apps and services.
Google also won’t be purging any account with active subscriptions, for obvious reasons, whether to Google One or a third-party news publication or app. The fact that money is still moving through your account is more than enough for it to qualify as “active.”
Nevertheless, it’s a good time to take a trip down memory lane and ensure there’s nothing on Google from yesteryear that you may want to keep. Even though logging into your old Gmail account will “renew” it for another two years, you can permanently shut it down on your own once you’re sure there’s nothing there that you need. There’s also Google’s Takeout service to help you figure out what’s stored in a Google account and download whatever you need to your computer.