Update, 7/21/2023: As reported by The Verge, account deletions will begin on December 1, as shared by Google in notices now being sent to users.
Your dormant Gmail accounts could get wiped later this year if you haven’t logged in for a while—or interacted with any other of Google’s services while logged in. A new update to Google’s policy on inactive personal accounts now puts them on the chopping block after two years, a move that Google says is for better security.
According to a blog post, Google reserves the right to delete the entirety of the fallow account, including your Gmail, Drive, YouTube, and Photos content. The purges will begin in December 2023, with ample notice to be provided in advance. Users will receive multiple email notifications to their Gmail address as well as the recovery email address on file (if one exists). Deletions will also happen in waves. The first batch will be accounts that were created and then never used again.
To avoid losing an account to inactivity, most people will need to either sign into the account or use one of Google’s services. The actions can be small—reading an email, watching a YouTube video, and using Google search (among other activities) is sufficient. However, if the account has an ongoing subscription to Google One, an app, or a publication, it’s automatically safe from deletion. Being signed into an Android device is also enough to avoid the chopping block, according to 9to5Google, though how active that device must be is unclear. (We’ve asked Google for further clarification and will update the story with any additional details.)
Google says clearing its servers of unused accounts will better protect users, as most idle accounts may be only guarded by weak or compromised passwords. The company says inactive accounts often lack two-factor authentication, too. Breached accounts can end up being used to perpetrate identity theft or simply make the internet a worse place (e.g., send out spam). If you find yourself reactivating your old Google accounts, it might be a good time to also strengthen your password (and add that to your password manager) and enable 2FA.
Should you forget about an account and it gets stricken from the rolls, you can breathe easy about someone impersonating you. 9to5Google also reports that account names will not be recycled—no one else will be able to use them.
This story originally published on May 17, 2023, and was updated in July 2023 with the starting date for account deletions.