Google recently released a mass warning to its users, notifying the prompt deletion of millions of dormant Gmail accounts as part of a platform update. The company's policy is set to take effect in December 2023 and encompasses all personal accounts left inactive for a minimum of two years, resulting in the permanent deletion of emails, documents, spreadsheets, calendar appointments, photos, and videos associated with these accounts. This policy is understood as a cybersecurity measure, as inactive accounts are more easily compromised than active ones.
“The policy only applies to personal Google Accounts, and will not affect accounts for organizations like schools or businesses. This update aligns our policy with industry standards around retention and account deletion and also limits the amount of time Google retains [users’] unused personal information,” writes Ruth Kricheli, Vice President of Product Management, Google, in a blog post. This move also aims to mitigate security threats such as phishing scams and account hijacking, which could potentially exploit inactive accounts with more ease than active ones, adds Kricheli.
“Our internal analysis shows abandoned accounts are at least 10x less likely than active accounts to have two-step-verification set up. Meaning, these accounts are often vulnerable, and once an account is compromised, it can be used for anything from identity theft to a vector for unwanted or even malicious content, like spam,” says Krichelli. Deleting this account is a precautionary measure set to protect the private information of users who may no longer use Google services in a periodic manner.
However, Google is adopting a proactive approach to inform users about the impending deletion, ensuring that affected accounts receive "multiple notifications" before any action is taken. These notifications will be sent to associated recovery email addresses, offering users an opportunity to safeguard their data.
To maintain account activity and avoid potential deletion of information, Google advises users to engage with their account by either opening or sending an email, utilizing Google Drive, downloading an app from the Google Play Store, or conducting a Google Search. However, in order to safekeep their information and prove account activity, users will have to carry out any of these activities while logged in to their Google accounts in their respective web browser.
Exceptions to Google's recent deletion policy include accounts that have been used for the purchase of current or ongoing Google products, apps, services, or subscriptions. Additionally, accounts containing a gift card with remaining monetary balance will not be deleted, as well as accounts that own published applications or games featuring active subscriptions or financial transactions. Finally, accounts managing active minor accounts with Family Link will be exempted from Google's policy, while accounts that have acquired digital items, such as books or movies, will also avert deletion.
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