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Gmail users warned their accounts could be about to be deleted

Mass deletions are an attempt to keep users safe

Andrew Griffin
Wednesday 02 August 2023 17:34 BST
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Google to delete millions of inactive Gmail accounts in December

Google has warned users that their Gmail accounts may start to be deleted.

The company says it is giving affects users plenty of time to ensure they are able to secure any accounts they want to retain access to.

The mass deletion will begin at the start of December, and apply only to inactive accounts. The company says it is doing so for safety, since old accounts may represent a security risk.

Google considers an account to be inactive if people do not log in within two years. Logging in includes not only looking at the Gmail inbox but also using that same login to watch YouTube or make Google searches, or downloading apps from the Play Store. Accounts that have money in them in the form of gift cards will also be kept open, Google has said.

Google warned in May that it would start deleting accounts. It said that it was doing so because those inactive accounts were more likely to be compromised, and could be used for other online crime.

“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,” said Ruth Kricheli, Google’s vice president for product management, at the time.

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

Those attackers can then use that account to send spam email or steal people’s identities, the company warned.

But it is now sending emails to those affected, giving them a warning that they could soon lose access to their account, noted Bleeping Computer. It tells users that it is doing so “to protect your private information and prevent any unauthorized access to your account even if you’re no longer using our services”.

The messages will be sent not only to the actual Gmail account in question, but also to any recovery email addresses that have been provided. Users will given at least eight months’ warning before their accounts are removed, Google says.

Once an account is deleted, the email associated with it will no longer be eligible for use, so that people will not be able to steal old and now recovered addresses.

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