Protect Yourself Online After You’re Gone With Google’s Inactive Account Manager

Thinking about the afterlife is never a comfortable thought, but Google has attempted to ease any privacy concerns for us who use their services by allowing users to take advantage of what they have called their “Inactive Account Manager”, which has also been nicknamed Google “Afterlife”.  Google hopes that with their new Inactive Account Manager tool that you’ll be able to decide “what you want done with you digital assets when you die or can no longer use your account”.

How It Works

The Inactive Account Manager is a fairly straight forward tool that allows you to choose what you want done with your online data after your account has become inactive (this includes if you simply choose to stop using all Google-related services).  You’ll first be able to choose a timeout period (you can choose a period of inactivity of three, six, nine or twelve months).  Once you reach that period of inactivity, you can then choose to either:

a) Have all of your data deleted; or

b) Choose for one trusted contact to receive all of your Google-related data

The Google-related data that you can have sent includes data from:

  • Blogger
  • Contacts and Circles
  • Drive
  • Gmail
  • Google+ Profile
  • Google Voice
  • Pages and Streams
  • Picasa
  • YouTube

It’ll also show any +1’s from across the web.

Of course, before this process even begins, Google will attempt to contact you by sending an email to your secondary email address, as well as send a text message to your phone (if you have you mobile phone number on file, that is) to make sure that you really are “dead” and didn’t just switch to a new email client.

Access To Your Data – Not Your Passwords

It’s important for users to understand that if you do grant access to anyone to obtain you digital information that they aren’t receiving any passwords to these accounts.  All they’ll be receiving is the data that you’ve created.  This is quite similar to a process that Facebook already has in place where they will “memorialize” an account of a deceased individual and can even grant access – but not provide the password – to a select set of friends and family members.

An Easier Process For Everyone

Prior to tools like Google’s Inactive Account Manager, family members would need to go through a fairly lengthy process to obtain a court order in order to shut down, obtain or remove any digital information.  Many sites (such as Facebook) also would require for an individual to provide proof of being part of the deceased family before any site would consider taking any action on account.