With over 1.2 billion users spread across the globe, Gmail is the most popular service for sending and receiving emails. However, that number is about to be trimmed as Google takes aim at some users’ accounts. Below we’ve explained what this email purge is and why it occasionally happens.
Email Account Management
It may have happened gradually but nowadays, our email account is one of the most important things we use. Since many digital services require accounts, our email addresses have become the first and foremost point of contact between consumers and the online businesses they interact with.
This ranges from important government websites to retail accounts like Amazon, or entertainment like Netflix or iGaming. All of them use accounts to keep your information safe and tailor your experience, determining users’ access to live-streamed shows or free bingo events. Your email account is a hub that connects to every other account you’ve created, using that email to prove your identity.
That means that almost every single person online has an email account of some kind. Gmail is the most popular, hence why there are over a billion users worldwide. Then there are those with multiple accounts and the businesses themselves, who use email as a crucial marketing tool. Through all of this usage, some accounts get left in the dust.
The Gmail Account Purge
In the past, Google has deleted accounts that have been left inactive for a long time. The reasoning for this is quite simple – older accounts are more likely to be abandoned (so they won’t be missed) and their old password is more likely to be compromised. This means that the inactive account may be vulnerable. Given email’s importance nowadays, a compromised email account could give bad actors access to their other accounts across the internet.
In May of 2023, Google issued an update to their inactive account policies that could affect potentially millions of Gmail accounts. In these policy notes, Google product management VP Ruth Kricheli notes that unattended accounts are more vulnerable because “they are 10x less likely to have 2-step verification set up.” Old accounts wouldn’t have received the push to activate two-factor authentication, a vital security measure that has been offered to all Gmail users in recent years.
The new policy states that the whole Google account may be deleted if it hasn’t been used for two years. This doesn’t just apply to Gmail but also to other workspace apps like Docs, Calendar, or Drive storage. This means that those who have abandoned their Gmail account will keep it alive if they still use other Google services attached to the account. Even something as simple as watching a YouTube video while signed in will count as activity.
The policy went into effect as soon as it was announced, though they stressed that deletion won’t start until December 2023. Notifications will also be sent out over the intervening months to try and alert email owners, who will permanently lose their information in such an event.
Alongside ongoing security concerns, deleting inactive accounts will also free up a lot of space on Google’s end. Hosting dead accounts and all the ghost emails on them takes up a lot of space – space that costs money and could be reoriented to serve new, active accounts instead. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has cut jobs with many other tech firms this year. Meanwhile, Google’s reliable year-over-year quarterly revenue has slowed, necessitating cost-cutting measures. By deleting these inactive accounts, Google can thwart security vulnerabilities and operate more cost-efficiently in one swoop.