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Google will start purging inactive accounts later this year

If yours has been dormant for two years, you’ll receive an email reminding you to log in and keep it active.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

If you have a Google account you haven’t used in a while but want to hang onto, you may want to log back in. The company announced today that it will begin deleting accounts that have been inactive for at least two years. Google frames it as a privacy-enhancing move, but it’s easy to also see it as a cost-cutting measure to free up storage on Google’s servers.

Starting later this year, anyone with an account that’s been inactive for two years will receive an email warning them that it will be deactivated if they don’t log in within 60 days. After deactivation, you’ll have another 60 days to sign in before the company permanently deletes it. So, in total, that’s about four months’ worth of notice to recover your account, which sounds reasonable enough. Google says the earliest it will begin deleting accounts is December 2023.

The company will send warning emails to both the account in danger of being deleted and any recovery emails you added. The deactivation and deletion will apply to everything you use that account for, including Gmail, Drive, Docs, YouTube, Google Photos, Meet and Calendar. It only applies to personal accounts, so work or school emails will be spared the culling.

Although the company’s stated privacy motive may be a convenient way to avoid saying, “We want to save money,” there is some substance to that framing. In addition to not having up-to-date passwords, abandoned accounts are ten times less likely to have two-factor authentication set up, making them more vulnerable to hijacking.

Google has a web tool to simplify avoiding account deletion. The company’s Inactive Account Manager can warn you more frequently about dormant accounts while letting you decide what happens to your data. There, you can choose trusted contacts to alert or even download your account data if it’s in danger of deactivation. And in case it ever does get axed, you can plan ahead by using Google’s age-old Takeout feature that lets you view and export all your data.