Google to delete Gmail and Photos accounts in huge purge

New policy aims to crackdown on scams and account hijacking

Anthony Cuthbertson
Friday 19 May 2023 06:47 BST
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Google has announced a major update that will see thousands – potentially even millions – of accounts permanently deleted if they have not been used since 2021.

The purge will include Gmail, Drive and Photos accounts that have not been used or signed into for at least two years.

In a blog post announcing the update, Google said the new policy was primarily for security reasons, as older accounts are typically more vulnerable to threats like spam, phishing scams and hijacking.

“Our internal analysis shows abandoned accounts are at least 10x less likely than active accounts to have 2-step verification set up,” the post stated.

“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 policy will only apply to personal accounts, with those associated with organisations like schools and businesses safe from being deleted.

The tech giant said the update will be in effect from this week, however no accounts will be deleted until December 2023.

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

“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).”

Users can avoid being caught up in the purge by doing as little as reading an email sent to the account, or watching a YouTube video while logged in.

Google hosts billions of user accounts, though it did not make public how many of them are inactive.

It follows similar announcements from Twitter, with chief executive and owner Elon Musk recently rolling out a similar policy that will see usernames recycled if they are associated with accounts that have not been used “for several years”.

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