Google to start deleting inactive accounts after two years [UPDATED: Accounts with YouTube videos are safe]

Google will start deleting inactive accounts that have not seen any activity in “two years.” This is according to a recent blog post by the company.

According to the blog post, Google is deleting inactive accounts in an effort to combat spam. It claims that the inactive accounts “are at least 10x likely than active accounts to have 2-step-verification set up.” This makes them easier to compromise and to act as vectors for spam and identity theft.

In addition, Google could also be deleting inactive accounts to free up storage and cut costs.

Currently, Google’s new policy of applies only to individual accounts. Business account holders who’re paying a monthly fee will be able to keep their accounts even if they remain inactive, as long as they’re paying. (Read: Google to unlock Stadia controller)

As for individual accounts, Google recommends that owners “sign-in at least once every 2 years.” In addition, it listed examples of “activity” that account holders can do when they’re already signed in.

Activity might include these types of actions you take when you sign in or while you’re signed in to your Google Account:

  1. Reading or sending an email
  2. Using Google Drive
  3. Watching a YouTube video
  4. Downloading an app on the Google Play Store
  5. Using Google Search
  6. Using Sign in with Google to sign in to a third-party app or service

Google’s support system also lists “Android check-ins” as a viable form of activity. This means that plugging in an Android phone should be enough to keep a user’s account active forever.

Unsurprisingly, paying for the Google One storage subscription also counts as “activity.”

As for Google Photos, the company listed a set of entirely separate “activity” metrics for users to keep their photos from being deleted. Doing so requires that users visit the Google Photos app or website, or upload a photo once every two years.

For those possibly affected by this change, Google states that it will not be deleting inactive accounts immediately. Instead, users have until December of 2023 until the accounts are taken down. In addition, Google promises to send multiple notifications over the months leading up to deletion, to both the account email address and the recovery email (if one has been provided).”

Update: YouTube’s creator liaison Rene Richie confirmed in a tweet that accounts linked to YouTube channels with videos on them will not be included in the purge of inactive accounts.

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