We woke up to a curveball from Google, and it might just rattle your peace of mind. In the online world, out of sight often means out of mind, but with a new policy that’s started rolling out today, ignoring those rarely used accounts could come with a heavy price.
Inactive Google Accounts pose a security risk
First, let’s acknowledge that dormant accounts are a bit like a hidden landmine. They’re more likely to be compromised due to old, possibly leaked or recycled passwords. They’re also about 10 times less likely to have two-step verification set up and therefore 10 times more likely to be compromised! This is a recipe for disaster and could put you in a position to have your identity stolen. That same account could then be used to mass send spam if the wrong person gets a hold of it.
While these concerns are already unnerving, Google’s new approach might add to your worry. Starting from this December, the company will be taking matters into its own hands. If you have a Google account that hasn’t seen any action for two years, it may be deleted from the face of the planet. Your Gmail messages, Google Docs, Drive files, Meet histories, Calendar events, even your carefully curated Google Photos collection could all be wiped out.
Google will start deleting them this December!
Luckily, you can breathe a sigh of relief if you have a Google account for your school or business because those are exempt. This clear-out only applies to personal Google Accounts and only personal accounts that are sitting and collecting dust, as previously stated.
Google says it’s going to take a “phased approach” to deletion. It will send multiple notifications over the months leading up to “the purge”, both to the account email address and the recovery email if there is one set up. On the one hand, it makes sense from a server clutter and security standpoint. On the other, it’s like a countdown to potential data loss for anyone who may have accidentally gotten locked out of their account or misplaced their password and security questions.
The situation isn’t so cut and dry
Again, two step verification helps you recover your account much easier, but in my time working with Chromebook and Android phone customers, I’ve seen plenty of folks who never set that up, don’t have backup codes, switched phones, and generally just forgot anything relevant that could help them get back into said account, so I get how bad this mass deletion may end up being for Google’s reputation.
If you want to keep your account from being digitally dusted, then you’ve got to show Google you’re still there, even if not daily. Just sign in at least once every two years – that’s it. You can also do a Google Search, watch a YouTube video, send an email, download an app from the Play Store – anything that lets Google know you still want that account to exist.
There are some exceptions to account deletion
There is a saving grace for some of you though. If you’ve uploaded videos to YouTube, or if you have an active subscription to Google One, an app or service on the Play Store, or even a news publication, your account is safe for now, even if you haven’t signed in for over two years! There are currently no plans to delete these, but my guess is that this will also change down the line perhaps in a few more years if Google sees a bunch of people with subs who aren’t using them on inactive accounts.
In this situation, I imagine they will likely find a solution to cancel those on your behalf, refund things, and kill the account off. Only time will tell! Until then, this is kind of a wake-up call, and possibly a cause for concern for some folks. “Use it or lose it”, as the saying goes, right?
Don’t be caught up in the purge
Now, that’s more relevant than ever, and I hope that no one reading this finds themselves in a situation where they are screwed over by this new policy. Go sign into all of your accounts, reset your passwords if you must – set up 2SV, and more than ever, go and make a Google Takeout backup of all of your data! Essentially, just turn the lights on before leaving the digital house again so you don’t get robbed and your house doesn’t get demolished. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about how to get your Google Account back and if you have any advice for those who may also be locked out with no recourse, drop it for them to read!