What happens to our digital accounts when we stop using them? It’s a question we should all ask ourselves, because when we are no longer keeping tabs on what’s happening with old accounts, they can become targets for cybercrime.
In fact, quite a few recent high-profile breaches targeted inactive accounts. The Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack came through an inactive account that didn’t use multifactor authentication, according to a consultant who investigated the incident. And in the case of the recent T-Mobile breach this summer, information from inactive prepaid accounts was accessed through old billing files. Inactive accounts can pose a serious security risk.
For Google users, Inactive Account Manager helps with that problem. You can decide when Google should consider your account inactive and whether Google should delete your data or share it with a trusted contact.
Here’s How it Works
Once you sign up for Inactive Account Manager, available in My Account settings, you are asked to decide three things:
- When the account should be considered inactive: You can choose 3, 6, 12 or 18 months of inactivity before Google takes action on your account. Google will notify you a month before the designated time via a message sent to your phone and an email sent to the address you provide.
- Who to notify and what to share: You can choose up to 10 people for Google to notify once your Google Account becomes inactive (they won’t be notified during setup). You can also give them access to some of your data. If you choose to share data with your trusted contacts, the email will include a list of the selected data you wanted to share with them, and a link they can follow to download that data. This can include things like photos, contacts, emails, documents and other data that you specifically choose to share with your trusted contact. You can also choose to set up a Gmail AutoReply, with a custom subject and message explaining that you’ve ceased using the account.
- If your inactive Google Account should be deleted: After your account becomes inactive, Google can delete all its content or send it to your designated contacts. If you’ve decided to allow someone to download your content, they’ll be able to do so for 3 months before it gets deleted. If you choose to delete your Google Account, this will include your publicly shared data (for example, your YouTube videos, or blogs on Blogger). You can review the data associated with your account on the Google Dashboard. If you use Gmail with your account, you’ll no longer be able to access that email once your account becomes inactive. You’ll also be unable to reuse that Gmail username.
Setting up an Inactive Account plan is a simple step you can take to protect your data, secure your account in case it becomes inactive, and ensure that your digital legacy is shared with your trusted contacts in case you become unable to access your account. Our Privacy Checkup now reminds you to set up a plan for your account, and we’ll send you an occasional reminder about your plan via email.
At Google, we are constantly working to keep you safer online. This October, as we celebrate Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we want to remind our users of the security and privacy controls they have at their fingertips. For more ways to enhance your security check out our top five safety tips and visit our Safety Center to learn all the ways Google helps keep you safer online, every day.