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The backstory: Google accounts give a person access to their personal Gmail, Drive, Docs, Meet, Calendar, Photos and YouTube pages. Because all of these services are free on a basic level, many users depend on them to create documents and store information or content, including personal photos, videos and more. But just because someone has a bunch of stuff stored on a Google account, that doesn’t mean they’ve logged on any time recently. Still, most of the 1.8 billion Gmail users and 2 billion Google Photos users have active accounts. Info on how many inactive accounts there are isn’t publicly available.
More recently: This past May, on their updated inactive account policy, Google announced that it would start purging unused accounts later this year. Since then, seemingly inactive accounts have been receiving notifications about their upcoming deletion so that it doesn’t come as a surprise to users. The reason behind this policy change is that Google wants to improve its user privacy. Google’s vice president of product management, Ruth Kricheli, says that if an account isn’t active, then it can be more easily “compromised.”
Google’s internal data shows that older, unused accounts tend to be built on old or reused passwords, aren’t getting security checks by users and are about 10 times more likely not to have two-factor authentication. When an account is compromised, a person’s data isn’t secure anymore, and they can start receiving spam or malware or even have their identity stolen.
The development: Starting this Friday, December 1, Google is set to start deleting “inactive” accounts, or ones that haven’t been used in two or more years. If you want to make sure that the stuff stored in your old Gmail, Drive, or YouTube account is safe, make sure to log into your inactive Google account before Friday. All you have to do is literally open one of the emails you’ve been sent, search for something in Google or watch a YouTube video under your unused account. That’s really all you have to do. Google says that the process will begin with accounts that were created and never used after that. It’s worth noting that this change only affects personal accounts, not ones for school or business or YouTube accounts with videos uploaded.
"If you have signed into your Google Account or any of our services recently, your account is considered active and will not be deleted," Google said in May.
"We do not have plans to delete accounts with YouTube videos at this time," Google said.