December 06, 2023

Your Unused Gmail Account May Be Permanently Deleted Friday

How to revive your Google account before it’s too late

Google will start to sweep away cobweb-collecting Gmail accounts this week. If you have an email address you haven’t touched in a couple of years, it might soon be gone.

The tech giant on Friday will start deleting personal Google accounts that have remained inactive for at least two years—and going forward, it will continue killing accounts that reach two years of disuse. Once deleted, the accounts and any items in them can’t be recovered. This could mean the end of personal emails, cherished documents and candid photos and videos tucked away in old Gmail accounts, Google Drives and other nooks in Google’s servers.

Unwanted and unused accounts are often vulnerable to hacking, identity theft and spam, Google said in a May blog post announcing its new inactive-account policies. The shift goes into effect two years after the company made a similar update to Google Photos.

“Old, unused email accounts probably don’t have multifactor, they probably don’t have the most secure passwords and are too often wide open to bad actors,” says Stephanie Benoit-Kurtz, regional security director at Trace3, an Irvine, Calif.-based IT service provider.

Google started sending an email to all users six months ago, alerting them about the policy shift, a company spokeswoman says. The Gmail parent is taking a phased approach to the removal process, starting with accounts that were created and never used. The company says it will continue to send multiple notifications to accounts and their corresponding recovery emails at least eight months before taking removal action.

After a Google account is deleted, the Gmail address can’t be used again—by the former user or anyone else.

The new deletion policy doesn’t apply to Google accounts set up through work, school or other organizations.

Who should pay attention?

Among the most affected could be older individuals who may not regularly engage with their online accounts. Tech enthusiasts with multiple accounts for various needs might find lesser-used accounts slipping into dormancy. And families hoping to preserve the digital legacies of deceased loved ones could face the unintended deletion of historical records.

People who are incarcerated could lose access to their digital lives before they get released.

How can you prevent an old account from being deleted?

To prevent deletion, you can sign into the hibernating Google account and search the web, upload a file to Google Drive or watch a YouTube video. You could use that Google account to sign into an app. In Gmail, just read or send an email. These actions signal to Google that your account is still in the realm of the living, so be sure to do them every year or so.

If you set your older account to automatically forward messages to another email address, it will remain active—even if you never actually visit that initial account.

Users can find out if there is an old Gmail account they may have forgotten about by visiting Google’s account recovery page. Follow the steps to help identify any accounts associated with your name and phone number. You can also check saved accounts and passwords in your web browsers or password managers. On shopping sites, check which email you might have set for your account.

Another option? Do nothing.

“If you’re not going to manage it or maintain it,” Benoit-Kurtz says, “it’s best to just get rid of it.”

Copyright 2023 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. From By Dalvin Brown.

To view all articles, check out the Internet Travel Monitor Archive