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Google is deleting unused accounts this week. Here's how to save your old data

Google is deleting accounts that haven't been used recently, as soon as Dec. 1. Now's the time to make sure you don't need any data from Gmail, or other Google products associated with an inactive account.
Patrick Semansky
/
AP
Google is deleting accounts that haven't been used recently, as soon as Dec. 1. Now's the time to make sure you don't need any data from Gmail, or other Google products associated with an inactive account.

Now is the time to act if you want to keep a Google account you haven't used in a while.

Starting Dec. 1, Google will start deleting "inactive" accounts — that is, accounts that haven't been used in at least two years.

Google accounts give access to the company's other products, including Gmail, Drive, Docs, Meet, Calendar, Photos and YouTube.

That means emails, videos, photos, documents and any other content sitting in an inactive account are at risk.

How to keep your account

To prevent it from being deleted, sign in to your Google account before Friday.

"If you have signed into your Google Account or any of our services recently, your account is considered active and will not be deleted," the company said in a May blog post outlining the policy.

Before the deletion process happens, Google says users will have received multiple notifications in the preceding months to both the account email address and the recovery email (if you have provided one).

The purge will be a phased approach, starting with accounts that were created and never used again, the company says.

There are exceptions: Any account that was set up for you through your work, school or other organization won't be automatically deleted. The policy only applies to personal accounts.

How to save your account data

You'll have to take an extra step if you want to hold on to content from a specific product that you haven't used in some time. If you want to keep photos from your Google Drive, for example, it's best to sign in to that particular service.

That's because the tech company says it "reserves the right to delete data in a product if you are inactive in that product for at least two years. This is determined based on each product's inactivity policies."

Videos from retired YouTube channels are safe for now, under the policy.

"We do not have plans to delete accounts with YouTube videos at this time," it said.

You may want to save your content but don't otherwise have use for your inactive account. In that case, you can back up your data. The Google Takeout page allows you to download and export your data. You can also individually download folders, documents and media.

Two years can fly by. To avoid future surprises, decide what happens to your account and data when it becomes inactive for a period of up to 18 months.

Why Google is deleting inactive accounts

Google says it's deleting inactive accounts as a security measure. Abandoned accounts are more vulnerable to malicious threats, such as spam, phishing scams and account hijacking, the company said.

"If an account hasn't been used for an extended period of time, it is more likely to be compromised. This is because forgotten or unattended accounts often rely on old or re-used passwords that may have been compromised, haven't had two factor authentication set up, and receive fewer security checks by the user," the policy update read.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emma Bowman