Google set to delete accounts that have been inactive for last 2 years

Google has been sending warnings to affected users since August.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Google set to delete accounts that have been inactive for last 2 years
Google set to delete accounts that have been inactive for last 2 years

That Google account you haven't checked in years might be getting wiped this week.

Beginning Friday, Google is moving ahead with its plan to delete accounts that have been inactive for at least two years.

The company announced the new policy back in May, saying it's intended to prevent security risks: Internal findings show older accounts are more likely to rely on recycled passwords and less likely to employ up-to-date security measures like two-step-verification, making them far more vulnerable to issues like phishing, hacking and spam.

Google has been sending warnings to affected users since August, with multiple alerts sent to impacted accounts and user-provided backup emails.

In a phased approach, the first accounts to be cut are those that were created and then never revisited by the user, Google said in May.

"We want to protect your private information and prevent any unauthorized access to your account even if you're no longer using our services," Google wrote in an August policy update.

Google accounts include everything from Gmail to Docs to Drive to Photos, meaning all content sitting across an inactive user's Google suite is at risk of erasure.

There are a few exceptions to the deletion move: Accounts with YouTube channels, those with remaining balances on gift cards, those used to purchase a digital item like a book or movie, and those that have published apps that are active on a platform like the Google Play store, the company said in August.

The decision to delete accounts goes a step further than an older policy. In 2020, Google said users would have their content wiped from services they'd stopped using, but the accounts themselves would not be deleted.

Deleting old accounts is a key step to ensure security, according to Oren Koren, CPO and Co-founder of cybersecurity firm Veriti, who says that old accounts are frequently viewed as low risk and, thus, can be an opening for malicious actors. Deleting old accounts might force hackers to create new accounts -- an action that now requires phone number verification. Additionally, the erasure gets rid of older data that may have been leaked in a data breach at some point.

"By proactively removing these accounts, Google effectively shrinks the attack surface available to cybercriminals," Koren wrote to CNN over email. "This action by Google exemplifies a broader trend in cybersecurity: taking preemptive steps to strengthen overall digital security landscapes."

To save your account, all you need to do is log in to sign into your Google account or any Google service at least once every two years and perhaps read an email, watch a video or perform a single search, among other activities.

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