Starting in December, Google will begin deleting accounts that have not been used in at least two years as part of an effort to address security risks, the company said on Tuesday.
The expunging of old accounts does not only mean losing access to Gmail. Work in Google Docs, Google Workspace, Google Photos and other Google products will also be wiped out, as will any videos that an affected user has uploaded to YouTube.
Ruth Kricheli, the company’s vice president of product management, said in a statement announcing the new policy that the move was intended to protect users from security threats because accounts that had not been used for a while were more likely to be compromised.
An internal analysis at Google found that abandoned accounts were much less likely than active accounts to have two-factor verification, an authentication method that helps to confirm a user’s identity, the company said.
“These accounts are often vulnerable,” Ms. Kricheli said, “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.”
The policy went into effect on Tuesday, but the company said it would not begin deleting unused accounts until December at the earliest. Google said it would start by purging accounts that were set up but never used.
Before an account is deleted, Google said it would deliver several notifications to users through Gmail and any backup email addresses that had been provided.
Ms. Kricheli said the plan to expunge inactive Google accounts only applied to personal accounts and would not affect organizations like schools or businesses that use Gmail and other Google services.
Google users who have not used their account in at least two years and do not want their account to be deleted can keep it active by simply signing into Gmail or any other Google service, such as Google Drive, YouTube or Google Search, or by downloading any app from the Google Play Store.
The company said that anyone with an existing subscription that had been set up with a Google account, such as one linked to a news outlet, would be considered an active user and their account would not be deleted.