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Tech Insight : Google Deleting Dormant Data

In this insight we look at Google’s updated inactive account policy whereby Google accounts not used for 2 years could be deleted, meaning the loss of important emails, photos, data and more.

Gmail, YouTube, & Google Photos Accounts

The inactive account deletions are part of a policy change for Google’s products and will apply to personal accounts (not business accounts) and their contents, i.e. content within the workspace including Gmail, Docs, Drive, Meet, Calendar, YouTube, and Google Photos.


The main reason for deletions of inactive accounts is to improve security. For example, older dormant accounts tend to rely on old or re-used passwords that may have been compromised and, Google says, are ten times less likely to have multi-factor authentication (2FA) set up on them. This means they’re more vulnerable to hacking and when compromised, could be used for other malicious activity, e.g., identity theft, or sending spam. Also, the move by Google is a step towards aligning its own policies with “industry standards” around retention and account deletion and is a way to help limit the amount of time Google retains users’ personal information.


Google says it will begin a slow rollout from 1 December and will give “plenty of notice”, i.e. multiple notifications over months to the account email address and the recovery email (if there is one linked to the account).

How Can You Stop Your Old Account From Being Deleted?

To keep a Google account ‘active’ so it doesn’t end up being deleted as part of the policy, users should sign-in at least once every 2 years and take certain actions such as:

– Reading or sending an email.

– Using Google Drive.

– Watching a YouTube video.

– Downloading an app on the Google Play Store.

– Using Google Search.

– Using Sign in with Google to sign in to a third-party app or service.

– Google Photos, Subscriptions & YouTube Videos.

Users who have subscriptions set up through their Google account, e.g. to Google One, a news publication, or an app won’t have their account deleted as this constitutes activity. As for YouTube videos, Google says it currently has no plans to delete accounts with YouTube videos.

Google says that to retain Googe Photos, users should sign in every 2 years to be show activity and avoid any deletion.

Take A Backup

To avoid any issues, in addition to providing a recovery email address (to receive notifications), Google is encouraging users to take a backup of their account anyway, e.g. using its ‘Takeout’ feature. Users can also try using Google’s ‘Inactive Account Manager’ to tell Google in advance what should happen to their account if it’s inactive for up to 18 months.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Although the policy doesn’t apply to business accounts, many businesses use domestic free Google accounts for business, and may have valued and important photos, archived emails, data and more stored in one or several Google accounts. The good news is that it doesn’t come into force until December so there’s time to revisit old accounts and indicate that they’re active, e.g. by simply sending an email from them. Google’s also made it clear that there’ll be many reminders along the way, which will only really be useful if a recovery email address has been set up. Google account users can, of course, choose to make a backup of their important data and files. It makes sense and is understandable that Google would want to pursue this policy from both a security and privacy (how long they hold on to user data) standpoint.