Google on Tuesday said it will delete personal accounts and their content that haven't been used or signed in for at least 2 years.
The company said it will purge the content in inactive accounts within Google Workspace (Gmail, Docs, Drive, Meet, Calendar), YouTube and Google Photos.
While the policy took effect on Tuesday, it will not immediately impact users with an inactive account and the earliest the company will begin deleting accounts is December 2023.
"The policy only applies to personal Google Accounts, and will not affect accounts for organisations like schools or businesses," Ruth Kricheli, VP, Product Management at Google, said in a statement.
The update aligns Google policy with industry standards around retention and account deletion and also limits the amount of time Google retains the unused personal information.
"If an account hasn't been used for an extended period of time, it is more likely to be compromised. This is because forgotten or unattended accounts often rely on old or re-used passwords that may have been compromised, haven't had two factor authentication set up, and receive fewer security checks by the user," Google explained.
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Google's internal analysis shows that abandoned accounts are at least 10x less likely than active accounts to have 2-step-verification set up.
This means that 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.
"To reduce this risk, we are updating our inactivity policy for Google Accounts to 2 years across our products," said the company.
"We will take a phased approach, starting with accounts that were created and never used again," it added.
Before deleting an account, Google will 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).
As previously announced, people will need to specifically sign in to Google Photos every 2 years to be considered active.
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