What happens to Gmail from December 1st and what risks your account (spoiler: probably nothing)

Starting from the last month of 2023, Google could begin a sort of cleaning operation: how to understand if your account is inactive, how to reactivate it and what the exceptions to the rule are

The alarmist headlines , as often happens on these occasions, have started to appear more or less everywhere online, with greater intensity as the deadline approaches: there are those who have written that “The deletion of content from Gmail and Photos will begin from 1 December” and who hinted to readers that “Google may delete your Gmail account on December 1st”. Both pieces of information are incorrect , or at least largely inaccurate (probably on purpose).

What is true is (for example) what colleagues at Mashable wrote , explaining that “From December 1st, Google will begin deleting inactive Gmail accounts.”


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by Emanuele CaponeNovember 16, 2023

Google and the definition of an inactive account

The point is the word “inactive” , because these are the profiles that are in the sights of the Mountain View company: as explained, an inactive account is “an account that has not been used for a period of 2 years”, that what could happen is that “if an account remains inactive for at least 2 years, Google reserves the right to delete the account , its activities and its data” and precisely “December 1, 2023 is the first possible date on which a Google account will be deleted for this.”

In summary: if a Google account (or a Gmail account, which is the same thing) remains inactive for at least 2 years , the company reserves the right to delete it, deleting all the data connected to it , therefore including emails, images stored in Photos and files saved in Drive. This is done both for reasons of storage space (there are 1.8 billion Gmail accounts in the world, which rise to 2 billion by overlapping the Photo ones) and above all for security reasons , because accounts that are inactive, neglected or whose credentials have been forgotten they can easily fall prey to cyber criminals.

The actions needed to keep an account active

As you may understand, avoiding Google’s cleaning operation is not difficult : just log in to your account and do some activity at least once every 24 months (or have done it at least once in the last 24 months).

For those who regularly use Gmail or other Google apps, this is obviously not a problem: simple daily use is enough to make the company understand that the account is active. Instead, those who have multiple accounts or have a single account that they rarely access should remember to log in and take action at least once by December 1st. Among other things, Google has a very precise list of what contributes to making an account active : reading or sending an email, using Google Drive, watching a video on YouTube, sharing a photo (on Photos), downloading an app from Play Store, do a Google search, use the Sign in with Google feature to connect to a third-party app or service. All this, obviously, must be done after logging in to the profile you intend to save from oblivion.


How to delete a Google account in just a few clicks

09 October 2023

The exceptions: active accounts even if they are inactive

There is a further reason why the alarmist headlines have little reason to exist: Google itself provides some exceptions to the rule , in the sense that “an account is considered active even if it has not been used for a period of 2 years” if some conditions:

  • the account was used to purchase an active or ongoing Google product, app, service, or subscription;
  • the account contains a gift card with a cash balance;
  • the account has a published application or game with associated ongoing active subscriptions or active financial transactions (for example, an account that owns an app on the Play Store);
  • the account manages a still active account of a minor through Family Link (what is it?) ;
  • the account was used to purchase a digital item, such as a book or movie.

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