Google will start deleting millions of abandoned Gmail accounts soon

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As we approach the end of 2023, we also inch nearer to Google’s deadline for resurrecting abandoned accounts before it presses the big red delete button.

In May 2023, Ruth Kricheli, VP for Product Management, said that the company would begin closing down unused accounts in December 2023, three weeks from now.

Account deletion will affect all Google accounts, including Gmail, Drive, Docs, Meet, Calendar, and Photos.

Google will delete unused accounts beginning December 2023

Kricheli said that the move is one designed to curb attacks and security threats, including “spam, phishing scams and account hijacking.” Dormant accounts are more susceptible to attacks than ones that are maintained, because the company frequently rolls out security updates such as two-factor authentication (2FA) to improve account protection.

The company’s own research suggests that accounts that haven’t been used in a while are 10x less likely to have 2FA set up.

The mass purge will happen in phases, beginning with accounts that were created but never accessed again.

Google says it will send “multiple notifications over the months leading up to deletion” before it takes the drastic action.

In order to keep accounts open, all Google requires is that you sign in at least once every two years to access its services. This could include: reading or sending an email; using Google Drive; watching a YouTube video; downloading an app on the Google Play Store; using Google Search; or using Sign in with Google to sign in to a third-party app or service.

Active subscriptions, such as Google One, news publications, and apps, are also considered to be sufficient activity.

Kricheli added: “we do not have plans to delete accounts with YouTube videos at this time.”

Google Photos users, though, will need to specifically sign in to that app or web portal in order to keep the service from being deleted.

While these measures may seem drastic, the reality is that most users typically sign in more than once every two years, leaving the vast majority of abandoned accounts to be actually abandoned.

With data centers under intense scrutiny over energy and natural resource usage, decluttering its servers is a step in the right direction for Google and the planet.

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Abandoned Gmail accounts (for more than two years) will be deleted from Google soon, which is good for the environment.