Time to take action: Google's inactive account purge begins Friday
You should've received an email if you're affected, but here's a reminder just in case
Consider this your final warning: Google is going to start wiping inactive accounts on Friday, December 1.
We warned you about Google's plans when it revealed them in May with an announcement that accounts untouched for two years would be deleted - along with all their associated data and files - but now the time is nigh and that junk account you use to filter spam email could disappear if you haven't actually logged in to it for the past two years.
Google's justification for the move is that inactive accounts are 10 times less likely to have two-factor authentication enabled, making them vulnerable to compromise and malicious misuse.
That said, the criteria for what Google qualifies as an active account is pretty minimal. All you need to do is sign in, read or send an email, access Google Drive, watch a YouTube video, download an app from the Play Store, use Google Search (while signed in) or use the account to sign into a third-party app or service for an account to avoid deletion.
Subscriptions that bill through a Google account are also sufficient to keep the account in active status, and Google noted that it doesn't have any plans to delete accounts that have uploaded a video to YouTube - it wouldn't want to see a drop in those metrics, after all!
Google Photos are being handled slightly differently, the Chocolate Factory noted, with a specific login to the Photos app or web page necessary to prevent old images from being deleted.
If you have an inactive Google account or Photos space you should have been notified, Google said, provided the inactive account was configured with a recovery email address or linked to a different email account. Deletion will begin on December 1 starting with accounts that were created and never used again, the company said, and will be wiped in unspecified phases after that.
It's unclear if account names will be freed up for reuse, either immediately or otherwise. We've reached out to Google with questions about its plan, but haven't heard back.
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The policy only applies to personal Google accounts, so organizations with inactive accounts don't need to worry about the coming purge.
Of course, you don't need to wait for Google to purge old accounts to lose your files. As The Register reported on Monday, multiple Google Drive users have taken to Google's support forum over the past week to share tales of months worth of files vanishing from their cloud Drives with little explanation as to why.
As of writing it appears the misplaced Google Drive files are still missing, and while some have reported workarounds that solved the issue Google has yet to say what happened and whether it has determined a fix. ®