Google invents a Zombie detector

Google patents methods to tackle the increasing problem of inactive user accounts (Zombie accounts). Online services are widely used across the world. However, after online services are first used, users do not always continue to access the services. This results in inactive accounts (“zombie accounts”), inaccessible authorizations (“zombie authorizations”), no longer used applications (“zombie applications”), and lost, damaged, or stolen devices (“zombie devices”) (collectively referred to herein as “subscriptions”).


The zombie subscriptions pose a burden on system infrastructure as resources must be used to support subscriptions that are no longer active. Further, these subscriptions also pose a potential source for breaches of the user’s privacy if the subscriptions become susceptible to third party access.

Google has patented a method to identify and handle zombie subscriptions. The method analyzes various parameters like user’s prior access habits or history (such as the user has previously gone, or regularly goes, extended periods of time without accessing the account), information indicating the nature of the account, app, or devices (such as the account is a medical records account that is usually accessed only a few times each year, or the account is a student application only used when school is in session, or the device is a work device used only during work weeks), information indicating the nature of the content stored in by the account, app or device (such as the stored content is archived records being stored for posterity), and information regarding the current season or time of year (such as it is the weekend, or it is summer or winter break of the school).

Patent Information
Publication number: US 9280592
Patent Title: Zombie detector and handler mechanism for accounts, apps, and hardware devices
Publication date: 8 Mar 2016
Filing date: 15 Mar 2013
Inventors: Dan Fredinburg; Keith Patrick Enright; Andrew Swerdlow;
Applicant: Google Inc.