[German]Anyone who has a user account with Google should also use it. Otherwise its loss is imminent and there might be problems if data or email addresses etc. are connected to this account. This is what Google has announced the days in a message about the change of its guidelines for deleting inactive user accounts. It will start at the end of the year 2023.
Orphaned user accounts are a problem for all cloud providers, occupying resources unnecessarily. The inflationary use of online accounts, often enforced by providers, sarks such issues. Who hasn't created an online account at Microsoft, Apple or Google on the spur of the moment to test something or because it was required when setting up a device?
Orphaned accounts as a security problem
Of course, it's in the account owner's best interest to keep it safe. Google, like other companies, has invested in technologies and tools to protect its users from security threats such as spam, phishing scams and account hijacking. However, even with these protections in place, an account that has not been used for an extended period of time is more likely to be compromised.
That's because forgotten or unattended accounts are often based on old or reused passwords that may have been compromised. Or users may not have two-factor authentication set up and there are also fewer user security checks that can be invoked.
Internal Google analysis shows that forgotten accounts are at least 10 times less likely to have 2-step verification set up than active accounts. This means that these accounts are often vulnerable, and once an account is compromised, it can be used for anything from identity theft to unwanted or even malicious content like spam.
Inactive account policy adjusted
To mitigate this risk, Google has updated its inactivity policy for Google accounts, limiting the lifetime of inactive accounts to 2 years for all products. If a Google account has not been used or signed in for at least two years, Google may delete the account and its content starting at the end of 2023. This includes content from Google Workspace (Gmail, Google Docs, Google Drive, Google Meet, Google Calendar) and Google Photos.
The policy only applies to personal Google accounts and does not impact accounts for organizations such as schools or businesses. With this update, Google is aligning the policy with industry standards for account retention and deletion limits the amount of time Google retains unused personal data.
Applying step by step, here's what users need to do
Google plans to implement this update to its account policies slowly and carefully, and to notify affected parties in a timely manner (though the latter may be difficult for unused accounts).
- While the account policy change will take effect immediately, it will not immediately affect users with an inactive account. Google will start deleting accounts in December 2023 at the earliest.
- In doing so, Google will gradually begin deleting accounts that were created and never used again.
- Prior to account deletion, multiple notifications will go out to both the account email address and the recovery email address (if one was provided) in the months leading up to the deletion.
Notifications become a problem when the old email account is no longer in use and people have also not provided a recovery email address or it no longer exists. Those who want to prevent the deletion of a Google account due to inactivity can "keep the account active" with various measures. Google makes the following suggestions there:
- The easiest way to keep a Google account active is to sign in at least once every 2 years.
- Anyone who has recently signed in to their Google account or any of the Google services that were associated with the account ensures that the account is considered active and will not be deleted.
Activities that prevent deletion include, for example, the following actions taken when you sign in or while signed in to your Google Account, according to Google:
- Using Google Drive
- Watching a YouTube video
- Downloading an app from the Google Play Store
- Using Google Search
- Signing in with Google to sign in to a third-party app or service
For those who have set up a subscription through a Google account, such as to Google One, a news publication, or an app, Google also takes that account activity into account. Google also says it currently has no plans to delete accounts with YouTube videos. Users should also consider how they ensure notifications are received (e.g., by providing a recovery email address or forwarding). More details can be found in this Google post.
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