Do you have any old Google accounts you haven’t used in a while? You might want to log in and take a look around once every 24 months or so, as Google has announced an update to its policies for inactive accounts. The old policy, laid out in 2020 at the same time it ended free unlimited storage for Google Photos, said that Google might wipe data stored in accounts that haven’t been touched for at least two years, but a blog post written by product manager Ruth Kricheli says that, now, those accounts could be deleted entirely.
The new policy won’t kick in until December of this year at the earliest, so you have some time to remember old login information or for us to get more details on how all of this will work. 9to5Google reports that the deleted Gmail addresses will not be made available for reuse.
YouTube creator liaison Rene Ritchie said on Twitter that the policy will not include deleting any accounts that have uploaded YouTube videos, as some feared that channels posted by people who’ve died or otherwise abandoned their accounts would suddenly disappear. Google has also updated the blog post announcing its new policy to reflect that, saying, “we do not have plans to delete accounts with YouTube videos at this time.”
According to Google, account activity is measured based on actions like reading or sending an email, using Google Drive, watching a YouTube video, downloading an app on the Google Play Store, using Google Search, or using Sign in with Google to sign in to a third-party app or service.
However, those don’t cover common uses of Google accounts, like setting up aliases that forward email to your primary address, and it’s unclear if accounts like those will be on the chopping block. Google specifically mentions that maintaining a subscription to something like Google One is one way to maintain activity, but that’s not something you’d usually do for an alternate account.
When the new policy starts, Kricheli says the company will start with accounts that were created and never touched again and also send “multiple notifications over the months leading up to deletion” to the address and any attached recovery email.
Update May 18th, 3PM ET: Updated to note the change in Google’s blog post specifying that it does not currently plan to delete accounts with YouTube videos.