Friday, April 12, 2013

What Happens to Your Google Account When You Die?

We seldom like to think about it, but death is inevitable. If your online life is equally important as your life in the real world, then you must make plans to what happens to your digital accounts, the data it contains and who controls it after you’re gone. We discussed this in some detail earlier, and compared digital afterlife polices of various companies.

Today, Google launched the Inactive Account Manager that gives Google account holders a chance to decide for themselves, what happens to their account and who is notified when they are no longer active. Notice, that the new feature doesn’t mention “death” – simply “inactive”, which can happen for any reason.

inactive-account-manager

To configure Inactive Account Manager, login to your Google account and click this link. It will take you straight to the Inactive Account Manager page under your Google account settings. Here you will see 4 settings.

  • Timeout period: This defines the timeout period, after which your account is classed as inactive. The timeout period starts with your last sign-in to your Google account. The default is 3 months, but that can be changed to 6 months, 9 months or 1 year.
  • Alert me: Inactive Account Manager will alert you via email or text message one month before the timeout period ends. Here you can leave your alternate email address and phone number where you would like to receive alerts.
  • Notify contacts and share data: Once you account has been classed inactive, your data will be shared with contacts you specify here. You can add up to 10 trusted friends or family members who should be notified that your account is inactive. You can also share data with them if you like.
  • Optionally delete account: You can ask Google to delete your account on your behalf. Deleting your Google account will delete all data associated with your products which includes your publicly shared data like YouTube videos, Google+ posts or blogs on Blogger.

After an account has been deemed inactive, contacts will receive a notification, and if you decided to share your data with them, they will receive an email with a link to download your data.

Inactive Account Manager remains inactive by default, so you don’t have to worry about your data being shared or deleted if you fail to use your Google account for more than 3-months (the default time-out period). You can go away on a 6-month holiday without worry. It’s only when you enable Inactive Account Manager that the time-out clock starts ticking.

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