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Emails, documents, photos and videos will all be permanently deleted

Google has begun warning users that it will delete millions of Gmail accounts next month as part of a major update to the platform.

The purge will impact all personal Google accounts that have been left dormant for at least two years, with emails, documents, spreadsheets, calendar appointments, photos and videos all permanently deleted.

The policy was introduced earlier this year but is set to come into effect in December 2023.

“We are updating our inactivity policy for Google Accounts to two years across our products,” Ruth Kricheli, Google’s vice president of product management, wrote in a blog post in May.

“This update aligns our policy with industry standards around retention and account deletion and also limits the amount of time Google retains your unused personal information.”

The move is aimed at protecting active Google users from security threats like phishing scams and account hijacking.

Old accounts that have not been used for years are typically at risk from hackers as they may use the same passwords that have been compromised in other security breaches, which are easily available on the dark web.

Any account at risk of deletion will receive “multiple notifications” before any action is taken, Google said, including to any associated recovery email addresses.

The tech giant has already begun sending emails to those affected, telling users it is “to protect your private information and prevent any unauthorised access to your account even if you’re no longer using our services”.

Losing access to a Gmail account could also potentially prevent people from using other online platforms and services that are associated with that email address, even if they are not related to Google.

In order to keep an account active and avoid being deleted, Google users are advised to open or send an email, use Google Drive, download an app on the Google Play Store, or simply make a Google Search while logged in to the account.

Any account that has posted a video to YouTube will also not be impacted, regardless of when it was last active.

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