Google’s decision to delete millions of inactive Gmail accounts could erase millions of photos and other irretrievable memories, users have warned.
The purge, which comes into effect next month and will hit any account that has not been used for more than two years, could impact parents who have set up email addresses for young children in order to share and mark milestones with them.
It could also inadvertently affect people who continue to manage the online accounts of deceased relatives.
Googleannounced the policy in a blog post earlier this year, claiming that the move aims to protect active users from security threats like phishing scams and account hijacking. The mass closure will also free up significant amounts of server space, which will also save the US tech giant money and resources.
Google warned that the new policy applied to personal Google accounts, which includes content within Google Photos and Google Workspace tools like Docs, Drive, Gmail, Meet and Calendar.
Nicholas Worley, founder and chief executive of digital archiving platform Inalife, urged people to take action immediately in order to risk losing access to the accounts.
“If you have a Google account set up for your kids and have been emailing them, or if you manage the account of a deceased loved one... Login, save or backup any important memories and stories,” he wrote on LinkedIn.
Mr Worley told The Independent that he began recording memories when he learnt he was having his first child in 2019.
“I have friends and now Inalife users who had set up emails for their kids and hadn’t known about the deletion issue before being told,” he said.
The Independent has reached out to Google for further information about whether any impacted accounts will be retrievable once the purge has taken place, and the exact number of accounts potentially impacted.
In its May blog post, Google’s vice president of product management Ruth Kricheli said that users would be able to keep their account active by reading or sending an email, using Google Drive, watching a YouTube video while logged in, downloading an app on the Google Play Store, or using Google Search.
“[The] update helps us continue our advancements in account security, and helps reinforce our commitment to keep your private information private,” she wrote.
“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.”
Google has already begun sending notifications to both the main email addresses and recovery emails of any accounts at risk of deletion.