Google has unveiled a new tool allowing users to manage their account once they pass on. It gives people the option to plan ahead for their digital afterlife, so to speak. On the company’s official Public Policy Blog, Andreas Tuerk, a product manager, writes that none of us like to think about death, pointing out that making plans for what happens after their users have died is important to their loved ones.
The new feature has been launched and should show up on users’ account settings page. This makes it easy for those using the Internet search giant’s services to decide what is to become of their digital assets when they can no longer use their account, to put it nicely. It is called Inactive Account Manager, not a very good name in the company’s own admission.
Users can choose what happens to all their digital data after a set period of online inactivity – either three, six, nine or twelve months. For example, they can decide to have it all deleted, or they can select what Google is calling ‘trusted contacts’ to receive data from some or all of its services. These include Gmail; YouTube; Google+ Profiles, Pages and Streams; +1s; Blogger; Contacts and Circles; and Picasa Web Albums.
And for those concerned about accidental wipes of online date, of course there will be notifications before any action is taken. Those who choose to decide on the fate of their digital lives using the Inactive Account Manager will receive a text message on their cell phone and an e-mail on the secondary address provided.
Strangely, the post doesn’t talk about what will happen to all the content users have purchased for any or all of their devices, and whether that can be transferred to a family member or a trusted contact. The likely answer is that anything digital that has been bought will not be transferable, but nothing has been revealed on that part of a user’s afterlife.
Recently, the world was shocked by the fact that those who buy songs and other content on iTunes didn’t actually own any of it. That begs the question: who has the right to dictate our digital lives once we’re gone? Google is giving people the ability to control just a tiny part of it anyway.