Digital afterlife: Google's beyond-the-grave plan
Ever think about what happens to your email account when you die? A new feature from the Internet giant functions like a will for your online assets.
Google's (GOOG) latest feature might have a terrible name -- the Inactive Account Manager -- but it addresses a serious problem: What happens to your digital assets after you die?
It's not a comforting thought, but with more of our lives recorded digitally via email, Facebook (FB), Twitter, Instagram and a thousand other applications, it's become one of those big questions most of us will face.
Google's approach is to prod its users into figuring out what they want done with their data before they die.
"You can tell us what to do with your Gmail messages and data from several other Google services if your account becomes inactive for any reason," the company said in a blog post about the new feature.
Here's how it works: Users can decide to have their data deleted three to 12 months after their "inactivity," or else pick trusted contacts to receive the data. That means if something happens to you, your loved ones could receive your complete email and blogging records from Google.
In an effort to avoid an inadvertent data dump on loved ones, Google said it will first warn customers about the transfer of personal files via a text message and email to your secondary address. After all, while Google might presume it's a posthumous file transfer, some customers might simply have switched to another service.
It's an idea that other companies have sought to address. The Digital Beyond, for one, offers resources about what happens to your digital assets after death, while Asset Lock charges for a service that stores digital copies of important documents and sends final emails to friends and family members.
Some states are turning their attention to the issue, too. Virginia earlier this year passed a law that gives parents access to their kids' digital accounts, according to the Digital Beyond.
Google users were supportive of the new feature, according to comments left on its blog post. A few had suggestions, though, including one man who wrote, "The point here is that Google is not accessible from paradise :-) try harder guys . . . Please . . ."
Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi.
It would be like reused phone numbers. people would send e-mail, love messages,ETC, to the new person using your user name.
They may get some hot pictures or porn.
Well there are often things left on sites that either leave memories or to say the least reminders of ones passing,removing data would at least let us know someone has moved on.
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