Google has announced significant updates to its account inactivity policy, which will take effect later this week on 1st December.
It has identified a heightened risk associated with inactive accounts, which are more susceptible to compromise due to outdated passwords and lack of two-factor authentication.
The company will implement a two-year inactivity threshold across its products, targeting personal Google Accounts that have not been used or signed into for at least 24 months. The policy encompasses various Google services, including Gmail, Docs, Drive, Meet, Calendar and Google Photos. The policy will not affect accounts associated with organisations, such as schools or businesses, it says.
The phased approach to account deletion will start with accounts that were created but never utilised. Prior to deletion, users will receive multiple notifications via both the account email address and the recovery email, providing ample notice and an opportunity to prevent deletion by signing in.
In a post on its blog, The Keyword, Google's VP of product management, Ruth Kricheli says: "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."
How to keep an account active
To keep an account active and exempt from deletion, users are advised to sign in at least once every two years. Account activity includes actions such as reading or sending emails, using Google Drive, watching YouTube videos, downloading apps from the Google Play Store, using Google Search or utilising Sign in with Google for third-party apps and services. Additionally, existing subscriptions, including those for Google One, news publications, or apps, will be considered as account activity.
Google emphasises the importance of regularly signing in to Google Photos to maintain account activity specifically for this service. Users will receive notifications before any action is taken regarding their photos and other content.
For transparency, the company encourages users to create a backup plan for their accounts and data.
Providing a recovery email at sign-up is recommended, and users can leverage tools such as Takeout for data export and Inactive Account Manager, which allows users to decide the fate of their account and data after a specified period of inactivity.