Google asks, “What happens to your account when you stop using it?”
When you die, you leave behind to your loved ones whatever assets you might have in life. You leave them your cash, house, land, jewelry and other assets. But what happens to digital assets like online messages, photos, and other documents and files when you die or can no longer use your account?
Trash or Share
A few months ago, Google unveiled the Inactive Account Manager that lets you create a digital will for your Google accounts, including data from Gmail, Google+, Blogger, YouTube, Picasa Web Albums, Google Drive and Google Voice. The service lets you decide if you want to delete all your files entirely or choose instead to share these data with a trusted friend or family member.
The first option means that your digital data dies when you do or when you no longer use your account. The second one lets your online legacy live on long after you’ve gone, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on the quality of digital life you left behind.
This is much like putting in place privacy settings on your Google accounts. You decide early on who gets to see what part of your digital life. You might want to leave behind precious photos and important documents to a close family member or friend. If you write your thoughts online, you might also want to share these to someone special. The rest of the stuff online might not be important enough not to bother to share with anyone. Then again, you might decide just decide to throw it all away in the digital dustbin.
Enabling the Inactive Account Manager
To enable the Inactive Account Manager, you will first determine a timeout period for your account. This may be 3, 6, 9 or 12 months. It starts with the last sign-in to your account. Your account will time out if no sign-in is recorded for that designated period. Google will alert you before your timeout period ends. You also have to name a trusted contact (one or more) whom Google will notify when your account becomes inactive.
You select what Google products that you want to share with each trusted contact. If you decide to share your data, at the end of the timeout period Google will give to your trusted contacts a verification code and instructions to access your online data.
Perhaps Google can tweak this Inactive Account Manager to enable adjustment of content sharing. Like specific document files or folders or photo album folders go to specific persons. Not all the contents of Google drive given to one person only. But since these are early days for the new service, we should expect further changes on this down the road.
The Inactive Account Manager can be activated on the Google Account Settings page.