As part of a significant platform change, Google has started alerting users to the fact that millions of Gmail accounts will be deleted next month.
The purge will affect all personal Google accounts that have been inactive for at least two years, with emails, documents, spreadsheets, calendar appointments, photos, and videos all permanently deleted.
This policy was introduced earlier this year but is expected to take effect in December 2023.
“We are updating our inactivity policy for Google Accounts to two years across our products,” Ruth Kricheli, Google’s vice president of product management, wrote in a blog post in May.
“This update aligns our policy with industry standards around retention and account deletion and also limits the amount of time Google retains your unused personal information.”
The move is aimed at protecting active Google users from security threats like phishing scams and account takeovers.
Old accounts that haven’t been used in years are often at risk from hackers because they may use the same passwords that have been compromised in other security breaches, available on the dark web.
Any account at risk of deletion will receive “multiple notifications” before any action, Google said, including any associated recovery email addresses.
The tech giant has already begun sending emails to those affected, telling users it is “to protect your private information and prevent any unauthorised access to your account even if you’re no longer using our services”.
Losing access to a Gmail account can also prevent users from using other online platforms and services associated with that email address, even if they are not affiliated with Google.
To keep their accounts active and avoid deletion, Google users should open or send emails, use Google Drive, download apps from the Google Play Store, or simply perform a Google search while logged in.
Any accounts that have posted videos to YouTube will not be affected, regardless of when the account was last active.