Losing access to your email account can be a significant security risk — even large corporations like T-Mobile and Colonial Pipeline have suffered serious hacks that came down to a compromised email account. With your compromised email account, hackers can gain access to your other accounts or use it for identity theft, scams, spam, and other unsavory purposes. But if you use Gmail, Google has a solution to prevent you from letting your account (or accounts) stay inactive for too long, preventing abandoned accounts from becoming targets for cybercrime.
Called Inactive Account Manager, the feature is designed to notify you — or a trusted contact — that one of your accounts hasn't been used in a while, and lets you decide what to do with the account and its data. It's automatic, so you don't have to worry about it again once you set it up.
How to set up Google Inactive Account Manager
- Navigate to Google's Inactive Account Manager page (if you have Google Workspace account, you won't have access to this feature). You can also access through the Google App by tapping your profile picture, selecting Google Account > Data & Privacy > Make a plan for your digital legacy.
- Tell Google how long you want it to wait before Google considers your account inactive, from 3 months to 18 months. We recommend erring on the shorter side.
- Provide a phone number and email address for Google to contact if the account is about to go inactive. You'll receive multiple notifications by SMS and email starting a month before your account is considered inactive.
- List additional people to notify and share data with if your account is going inactive. We recommend adding family or trusted friends.
- Set up an auto-reply message you'd like to be sent to anyone who emails you after your account becomes inactive. This is optional.
- Configure what to do with your data when your account goes inactive. You can choose to delete it entirely or let one of your contacts download your information first. If you give others access to your Google data, they have three months to download it.
- After that, you'll need to confirm your choices, and you're finished.
You can change your options any time in your Google account settings under Data & privacy > Make a plan for your digital legacy. Of course, this feature is helpful for more than security. For example, if you're injured or incapacitated, this can allow family or friends to access your data when you can't — and it lets you decide what you want to do with your data now, so no one has to worry about it later.
[Image credit: Techlicious]
Elizabeth Harper is a writer and editor with more than a decade of experience covering consumer technology and entertainment. In addition to writing for Techlicious, she's Editorial Director of Blizzard Watch and is published on sites all over the web including Time, CBS, Engadget, The Daily Dot and DealNews.