Following in the wake of Elon Musk’s announcement that Twitter will start purging inactive accounts, Google has said that it will be doing the same for old Gmail accounts. Thankfully, however, it’s much clearer about which accounts will be classified as inactive, and when account deletions will begin.
In a post on its Keyword blog (opens in new tab), Google explains that its main reason for deleting inactive accounts is that the move should help keep users safer from hijacking and scams. Based on its internal analysis, Google says that abandoned accounts are over 10 times less likely to have 2-step verification set up compared with active accounts. The move will also mean that Google isn’t unnecessarily retaining personal data.
Considering Google accounts allow you to do more than simply check emails and remember all your YouTube subscriptions – you can use them as a password manager and to log into a huge range of third-party services – you likely have an old account or two that you don’t want to be deleted.
The good news for those of you that have an account you’ve not used in a while is that Google won’t enact its new policies right away. As per the announcement, the earliest it’ll begin deleting accounts is December 2023; so you have until at least then to log in to the account to save it from Google’s purge.
What’s more, before an account is deleted Google says it will send multiple notifications over the months leading up to the account being wiped – both to the email itself and its recovery email address if one has been provided. It’s not likely Google will flip a switch one day without warning.
How can I stop Google from deleting my account?
At a minimum, for Google to consider an account active you have to log in to it at least once every 2 years. Additionally, Google will consider an account active if you do actions like check or send emails, access Google Drive, or watch a YouTube video while logged into the account.
Additionally, if you have an active subscription set up through your Google account – such as Google One, or one to a third-party news publication or an app like one of the best streaming services – Google will also consider your account active.
Lastly, if the account is set up for an organization like a school or business it won’t be affected by the change – Google won’t be automatically deleting these kinds of accounts.
If you have multiple Google accounts, we’d recommend setting it up so that your most-used address is the recovery email for accounts you don’t use frequently. That way if you do forget to keep an account active you should see Google’s warning messages that’ll remind you to use it before it’s gone forever.