Google’s graveyard is famed, but the final month of 2023 has ushered in a different kind of reaping. For now (ahem), the company’s services are safe. Instead, inactive personal accounts are getting swept from the servers.
As reported earlier this year, dormant Google accounts and their Gmail, Drive, YouTube, and Photos content start getting the axe on December 1. So, if you haven’t used any Google services in the past two years, your account could fall victim to Google’s new inactivity policy. The policy does not apply to accounts set up through your work, school, or another organization. Several exceptions also apply to personal accounts like if you have an ongoing subscription, have purchased digital items like books, or have an associated gift card balance.
Not all inactive accounts will get nuked immediately. Instead, the first to be wiped are ones that were created and then never used again, as outlined by Google in its May announcement of its plans. All affected accounts should have received email notifications leading up to the Dec 1st start date for deletions, to both the account and its recovery email address (as applicable), but if you never use the account, you may not have seen them.
To evade the scythe, you can simply log into your account or use a service if you’re already logged in through a device like your computer or your phone. Small behaviors like watching a YouTube video, using Google Search, or reading an email is enough to reset the timer.
Google says it’s purging unused accounts for security reasons, as most affected accounts are barely protected by weak or compromised passwords. These kind of accounts usually also don’t have two-factor authentication enabled, either. Hackers can use a breached account to perpetrate identity theft or send out spam. So, if you find yourself reviving an old Google account, it’s a good time to consider strengthening your password (and adding it to your password manager) as well as enabling 2FA.
On the flip side, should you be truly done with an account, you can safely let it be purged. Account names will not be recycled and no one else will be able to use them.