Google to Delete Inactive Gmail and Photos Accounts Starting December 1st

Starting December 1st, Google will begin deleting inactive Gmail and Photos accounts. This is a planned move that Google announced back in May, with the company explaining that accounts that haven’t been active for two years will face deletion. That includes wiping all content associated with an account, which could be Drive, Google Photos and Docs files.

Google's Reason for Deleting Inactive Accounts

Google's VP of product management, Ruth Kricheli explained that this is a necessary security measure. “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.

Our internal analysis 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, and once an account is compromised, it can be used for anything from identity theft to a vector for unwanted or even malicious content, like spam.”

How Many Inactive Accounts Are There?

As of 2019, Gmail had 1.5 billion global active users and is one of the most popular email services around. Because of that popularity, and the ease of setting up an account, scammers have been known to target Gmail users. It also makes sense that Google will want to close dormant accounts to free up names and space. Google hasn’t released any figures on how many accounts are classified as inactive, but considering the size of the user base, there could be a lot of free storage the company is funding for accounts that aren’t active.

How to Keep Your Account Active

Some users and use cases are, however, exempt from deletion. An account will be saved from execution if it has been used to purchase a Google product or subscription (such as paying for extra storage space), or if it’s an account for an organization. The new policy only applies to personal Google accounts.

The deletions begin next week on December 1st, but they won’t all happen in one day. Google says it will take a “phased” approach by starting with accounts that were created and never used again. The company will also send out warnings to the account’s email address, and recovery address, beforehand.

If you want to make sure your account isn’t included in the cull, simply sign-in to your Google dashboard (or just sign into your Gmail account) and Google will count that as activity. Signing into YouTube, Drive or downloading an app on the Play Store also counts as activity.