It sounds somewhat like a late April Fools day prank but Google weren’t joking when they announced of their Inactive Account Manager, which allows users to leave Google accounts to loved ones after they pass away.
The feature was announced in a blogpost last week as Google revealed ‘we’re launching a new feature that makes it easy to tell Google what you want done with your digital assets when you die or can no longer use your account.’
The service works by users stating what they want to happen to their accounts after three, six, nine or 12 months of inactivity, the data can either be sent to predetermined contacts, presumably loved ones, or Google can delete the information.
In case the worst hasn’t happened and a user has just forgotten about an account or hasn’t gotten round to logging in for a while Google sends a text and an email, to an alternative account, alerting them that the Inactive Account Manager is about to deal with their information. If there is no reply to this message Google will take the steps set up by the user when they enabled the service.
Google accounts that can be included in the service and left to loved ones are: +1s; Blogger; Contacts and Circles; Drive; Gmail; Google+ Profiles, Pages and Streams; Picasa Web Albums; Google Voice and YouTube.
This isn’t the first time a company have attempted to tackle the sensitive issue of what is to happen to the information they posses after a user has died, for example Facebook have the option to “memorialise” an account of a deceased user.
At first this whole concept seemed a little daft to me, at the time of personal tragedy I doubt the first thing grieving family members will think is “who is going to take the Youtube account”, but if you consider it from some angles this service could prove very significant.
It will of course all boil down to how you use the web, in particular Google products, but if a Google Drive account is full of important documents or an email account has cherished photos and videos stored as attachments then this service could prove valuable.
Still the concept of a ‘digital afterlife’ may prove a difficult one to grasp, for me the concept seemed to raise more questions than it answered. I’d love to know what you think in the comment section below though, is the Inactive Account Manager something you’ll be setting up for your Google accounts or is it something you view with an air of scepticism?