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Search the web at least once every two years or risk losing your Google account

Updated inactivity policy may nix accounts, and data. Even Workspaces data and your precious pics

Google has announced an update to its "inactivity policy" that will see the search and ads giant delete accounts – and their data – if users don't use them to search the web at least once in two years.

The web biz has justified the change on the grounds that holders of accounts that haven't been touched for two years are less likely to have adopted two-factor authentication or updated passwords.

"Our internal analysis shows abandoned accounts are at least 10x less likely than active accounts to have 2-step-verification set up. Meaning, these accounts are often vulnerable, and once an account is compromised, it can be used for anything from identity theft to a vector for unwanted or even malicious content, like spam," wrote Google's veep of product management Ruth Kricheli.

The policy change won't just impact that Gmail account you set up to get a free trial subscription to something years ago and then forgot about. It applies across Google products, including Workspaces. While accounts for businesses or educational institutions won't be deleted, individual users of Google's cloudy productivity suite and photo storage lockers need to pay attention. The latter may demand special attention: billions of Android devices back up photos into Google's cloud, meaning the pix in that dead 'droid in your bottom drawer might face deletion from the G-cloud.

The good news is that Google's measure of an "active" account is a single instance of any of the following activities, performed any time across two years:

  • Reading or sending an email;
  • Using Google Drive;
  • Watching a YouTube video;
  • Downloading an app on the Google Play store;
  • Using Google Search;
  • Using Sign in with Google to sign in to a third-party app or service

Google will start to implement this policy by targeting accounts that were created but never used.

Other inactive accounts will be in the crosshairs starting in December 2023, when users of dormant accounts will receive "multiple notifications … to both the account email address and the recovery email (if one has been provided)."

The Register fancies there's more than security at stake here. By encouraging just one more login to seldom-used accounts, Google will prod holders to send it just a little data that it can put to work in many ways. Consider, too, that Google is currently in cost-cutting mode and has made no secret of its desire to reduce its datacenter infrastructure operating costs.

At least the inactivity policy doesn't mean Google is killing any products. The chocolate factory is notorious for nixing products if they don't win colossal audiences, or meet data-harvesting goals. ®

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