Google, WhatsApp and Samsung Can Delete User Data Without Permission

Google has updated its terms and conditions. The company can now delete the data from user accounts that have been dormant without the account owner's permission. WhatsApp has a similar policy for inactive users. Samsung is getting ready to close its cloud service and will be deleting all user data after September 30th.

Google's updated terms and conditions

Google users have been informed that the company has updated its terms and conditions. As per the new update, Google can now delete Gmail accounts, Google Photos accounts, and any associated data without prior permission from account owners if the account has not been used for a period of 24 months. Via a post on its website Google said, "If you're inactive for 2 years (24 months) in Gmail, Drive or Photos, we may delete the content in the product(s) in which you're inactive. If you exceed your storage limit for 2 years, we may delete your content across Gmail, Drive, and Photos." According to the company, it updated its terms so that it can purge its servers of accounts, files, and data that have remained dormant for years. You will not be affected by this update If you are actively using your Gmail or Photos accounts. 

Starting June 1st Google Photos also ended unlimited free storage on the platform. The company will not charge for storage exceeding 15 GB. Users with less than 15 GB of data will continue to have free storage. The change in policy is meant to encourage more users to purchase a Google One subscription through which users can get up to 30TB of storage. The additional storage users get from a Google One subscription can be used with Google Photos, Drive, and Gmail.

WhatsApp's inactive accounts

Similar to Google, WhatsApp also has the ability to delete inactive user accounts without user permission. Though a lot of people are not aware of this rule, it is mentioned in WhatsApp's terms and conditions. According to the company's policy, they can delete any account that has been inactive for 120 days. An account is considered inactive if the user does not connect to the WhatsApp client. It's important to note that simply launching the message is not considered an activity, the user must also have an internet connection. If there is no internet connection, and a user simply opens the messenger the account will still be considered inactive.

Regarding the policy, via a post on its website the company says, "To maintain security, limit data retention, and protect the privacy of our users, WhatsApp accounts are generally deleted after 120 days of inactivity. Inactivity means the user hasn’t connected to WhatsApp." The good news is that a user whose account may get deleted can register their device again. The company clarified that any content that was stored locally on the device will reappear after registration. If the user deletes the app form their phone after the account was deleted then that content will not be restored. 

Samsung is closing its cloud services

Samsung has decided to cut back features from its Samsung Cloud service. The company has extended the deadline that it had communicated to users to back up or move their data. Users now have until 30th September to move their data. Samsung Cloud is a service that the company provides to owners of Samsung tablets and smartphones. If you own a Samsung device, your photos and videos are backed up to Samsung Cloud via a service called Gallery Sync. Any documents or files on your device are backed up via the Drive feature. Device owners used to receive up to 15 GB of free storage on Samsung Cloud. Over the coming months, Samsung will be ending support for Gallery Sync and Drive and will delete photos, videos, and files stored on its cloud servers. Users now have two options:

1. Transfer data to Microsoft's one drive

Samsung has partnered with Microsoft to make it easier for its users to transfer their data to OneDrive. Microsoft generally allows users to create free accounts on OneDrive and offers 5 GB worth of free storage. Samsung users will be able to create their free accounts and get 15 GB of free storage. The same amount as they got on Samsung cloud. It's important to know that the 15 GB free storage will only be provided for a year, after which users will have to pay for data above 5 GB. Users will have the option to move data to OneDrive until 12th August 2021. After that, this option will no longer be available.

2. Move data to local storage

Users also have the option to move their data off the cloud, they can download data to their devices, a desktop, or a laptop. Users can do this until the 30th of September after which Samsung will start to delete all photos, videos, and documents from its servers. If you have important family photos, documents, or other data backed up to Samsung Cloud, you should take advantage of Microsoft's offer to move to OneDrive or download your data before the end of September.

According to a survey of 600+ people by GoodFirms, 73% of respondents use cloud storage for their personal data and 92% use the cloud for storage of office data[1]. Cloud adoption has been growing continuously over the past five years. As services become more accessible, and users become more aware of how cloud technologies work, the adoption of cloud storage is expected to increase. Paid subscriptions to use cloud storage is an emerging trend. Have you paid for, or would you consider paying to store your data in the cloud? There are several services to choose from, Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft's OneDrive are some of the most popular options among private consumers.

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Source:

1. n.d., N. Sebastian, "Usage & Trends of Personal Cloud Storage: GoodFirms Research", [available online] available from: https://www.goodfirms.co/resources/personal-cloud-storage-trends [accessed Jun 2021]