Vancouver, BC (bluebay700.com) — If you use Google services, you probably received an e-mail about a new policy change that sets new restrictions on storage and inactivity.
Excite!, Yahoo and Hotmail enacted a similar policy over a decade ago. The policy rollout was abrupt, effectively destroying all e-mail from user accounts that has been idle for at least a year. What’s worst, the ability to download e-mail through a third-party client, like Microsoft Outlook, wasn’t readily available yet at the time. If it was offered, it was a paid service.
Inactivity and Storage Quota
Google’s latest policy change affects Google accounts using “Gmail, Google Drive (including Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms, and Jamboard files) and/or Google Photos.” Gone are the days of Google’s “unlimited storage.” Google is cleaning house! Because even cheap storage has its limits, even for a mammoth technology company.
What this means is, for Gmail, Drive or Photos users who are inactive for two years (or 24 months), Google may delete the content in the products in which the user is inactive. An exception to the policy are “Google One members who are within their storage quota and in good-standing”. Active users who exceed their storage limits for two years may also have their content deleted “across Gmail, Drive and Photos.”
The change won’t impact users who periodically use the services within the two-year timeframe and keep their storage usage within limits. Those affected will receive “e-mail reminders and notifications in advance prior to deleting any content.”
Policy only affects content, not account, so users will still be able to sign in… your digital assets is just… gone forever.
The inactivity and storage quota limit policies only affects consumer users of Google services. It doesn’t apply to “Google Workspace, G Suite for Education and G Suite for Nonprofits” policies at this time.
Commencement and Enforcement
The new policies will go into effect on June 1, 2021. Enforcement of the policy will begin two years later, on June 1, 2023.
There are ways to keep your accounts active, avoid exceeding storage limits and preserving your digital assets. Google provides some tips on how to keep your accounts active.
The simplest way to keep your data active is to periodically visit Gmail, Google Photos, and Google Drive (and/or collaborative content creation apps like Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms, Jamboard and Sites) on the web or through a Google app. Make sure you’re signed in and connected to the internet. Please note that you may have multiple accounts set up on your device. Activity is considered by account, not by device. Make sure you’re using the services for all accounts on which you wish to remain active.
Therefore, you have to sign in to each account at least once every two years. Google lists some examples of activity:
For Gmail, if you use an e-mail client like Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird, you can configure these applications to periodically connect to your g-mail accounts, including receiving and deleting old e-mails, which will help keep your storage within quota. You can search for “free email client,” there are plenty of options.
Google’s storage quota was extravagant a decade ago, but nowadays, with high-resolution content, 15 gigabytes doesn’t seem much. The best way to manage e-mail storage usage is to use a third-party client and configure it to delete e-mails after a certain period of time, like six to twelve months old.
Each Google Account includes 15 GB of free storage quota, which is shared across Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos. You can add to your storage quota by purchasing a Google One membership (where available). Occasionally, you may receive free additional quota from a special promotion or related purchase. To learn more about your quota, see what items count towards your storage.
Download Your Google Data, Now!
If you don’t have a local copy of your Google data, there’s a way to do it. Thanks to EU for the Big Tech lawsuits. Here’s how to download your Google data.
In the age of “subscriptions” and the demise of Net Neutrality, it is best to treat online services, like Google’s many many many services, as transient. And to minimize, if not avoid, using any cloud services and/or storage as permanent repositories. This policy change was bound to happen. Eventually, Google will want users to start paying. As far as inactivity is concerned, you will have to research what third-party client you wish to use that will let you connect to multiple accounts periodically.
Disk storage these days are cheaper and more portable. There’s no reason to push your digital assets to the cloud, unless you intend to use it as a personal distribution point or temporary workspace placeholder.
Your record of truth should be kept offline, away from the sticky hands of big technology corporations, hackers or… the government.
With regards to Photos and Google Drive, chances are, the content stored in these cloud storage are pushed by applications or uploaded manually. In which case, you can transfer the copy from your device to your own permanent local storage — like an external USB drive. Flushing your cloud storage should not be an issue if you retain offline copies.
Google’s inactivity and storage restrictions was bound to happen. Fortunately, disk storage are cheaper and there are available software, some free, that will let you manage your Google accounts to keep them active and within storage limits.
But the biggest lesson here is this, always keep your record of truth (of all your digital assets) offline, and treat online services as transient.
Pitfalls of cloud services, subscription fees in perpetuity.