Google deletes Gmail accounts inactive for two years

Thousands of email accounts are on the chopping block as Google attempts a widescale crackdown on Gmail users.

The company announced in May that onwards from December it would be deleting accounts that hadn’t been active for two years – with users being urged to log in if they want to keep their email address.

Accounts that continued existing despite not being used exposed users to “security threats, like spam, phishing scams and account hijacking”, the tech giant said.

“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 said in a blog post.

Abandoned accounts were at least 10 times 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,” the tech giant said.

Content within Google Workspace including Gmail, Docs, Drive, Meet, Calendar and Google Photos was likely to be deleted, including any content they contained.

Only personal accounts would be affected, with school or businesses remaining untouched.

Google said the update aligned with its policy with industry standards around retention and account deletion.

It also limited the amount of time Google retained unused personal information.

Users were not expected to begin being impacted until December, with the company insistent it would roll the changes out “slowly and carefully”.

“We will take a phased approach, starting with accounts that were created and never used again,” the company said.

“Before deleting an account, we 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.”

Originally published as Aussies warned ahead of Google deleting Gmail email accounts