Beginning in December, Google will begin deleting accounts that haven’t been used in at least two years as part of an effort to address security threats, the company said Tuesday.
Deleting old accounts doesn’t just mean losing access to Gmail. Work in Google Docs, Google Workspace, Google Photos, and other Google products will also be wiped, as will any videos an affected user has uploaded to YouTube.
Ruth Kricheli, the company’s vice president of product management, said in a statement announcing the new policy that the move was designed to protect users from security threats, as accounts that had been unused for a while would be used more frequently.
An internal analysis at Google found that abandoned accounts were much less likely than active accounts to have two-factor authentication, an authentication method that helps confirm a user’s identity, the company said.
“These accounts are often vulnerable,” Ms. Kricheli said, “and once an account is compromised, it can be used for anything from identity theft to a vector for unwanted or even malicious content, such as spam.”
The policy went into effect on Tuesday, but the company said it wouldn’t start deleting unused accounts until December at the earliest. Google said it would begin cleaning accounts that were set up but never used.
Before deleting an account, Google said it would deliver several notifications to users via Gmail and any backup email addresses provided.
Ms Kricheli said the plan to scrap inactive Google accounts would only apply to personal accounts and would not affect organizations such as schools or businesses that use Gmail and other Google services.
Google users who haven’t used their account in at least two years and don’t want their account deleted can keep it active by simply logging into Gmail or any other Google service, such as Google Drive, YouTube, or Google Search, or by downloading any app from the Google Play Store.
The company said anyone with an existing subscription set up with a Google account, such as one tied to a newscast, would be considered an active user and their account would not be deleted.