Google to delete inactive accounts to improve security
(CNN) — Google will continue with its plan to delete accounts that have been inactive for at least two years, starting this Friday, December 1.
The company announced this new policy in May, in order to avoid security risks. Internal findings show that older accounts are more likely to trust recycled passwords and less likely to employ updated security measures like two-step verification, making them much more vulnerable to issues like phishing, hacking, and spam.
Google has been sending warnings to affected users since August, with multiple alerts sent to affected accounts and backup emails provided by users.
As Google explained in May, the first accounts to be deleted will be those that the user has created and never visited again.
“We want to protect your private information and prevent any unauthorized access to your account, even if you no longer use our services,” Google wrote in an August policy update.
Google Accounts include everything from Gmail to Docs to Drive to Photos, meaning all content in an inactive user’s suite of Google services is at risk of being deleted.
There are some exceptions to this measure: accounts with YouTube channels, those with remaining balance on gift cards, those used to purchase a digital item such as a book or movie, and those that have published applications that are active on a platform such as the Google Play store, the company said in August.
The decision to delete accounts goes a step further from a previous policy. In 2020, Google said content would be deleted from services that users stopped using, but the accounts themselves would not be deleted.
Deleting old accounts is a key step in ensuring security, according to Oren Koren, CPO and co-founder of cybersecurity company Veriti, who says that old accounts are often considered low risk and can therefore be a gateway for malicious actors. Deleting old accounts could force hackers to create new accounts, an action that now requires phone number verification. Additionally, wiping removes old data that could have leaked in a data breach at some point.
“By proactively removing these accounts, Google reduces the attack surface available to cybercriminals,” Koren wrote to CNN by email. “This action by Google exemplifies a broader trend in cybersecurity: taking preventative measures to strengthen overall digital security landscapes.”
To save your account, all you have to do is sign in to your Google account or any Google service at least once every two years and perhaps read an email, watch a video, or perform a single search, among other activities.