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Google Tools To Control Data After Death

New tools aim to help users maintain privacy should something happen, remove data after set period of inactivity.

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Google is now offering users the opportunity to plan what happens to their Google Account data after they die or can no longer use their account. The company on Thursday introduced the Inactive Account Manager, a tool for distributing Google user data to friends and for deleting it.

This death panel, so to speak, can be accessed from the Google Accounts page, under the Accounts Management section where it says, "Control what happens to your account when you stop using Google. Learn more and go to setup."

"We hope that this new feature will enable you to plan your digital afterlife -- in a way that protects your privacy and security -- and make life easier for your loved ones after you're gone," explained Google product manager Andreas Tuerk in a blog post.

The service was created by Google's Data Liberation group, which has been working for several years to simplify the process of exporting data from Google services.

[ Is government transparency doomed to remain an oxymoron? Read The Freedom From Information Act. ]

The Inactive Account Manager allows users to set a specific timeout period. Should the account in question remain inactive for that period, Google will take the specified action. Possible settings are three, six, nine or 12 months.

Google said that it considers several factors when assessing inactivity, including account sign-ins, Web history, usage of Gmail from any device and Android check-ins.

Users of the service are advised to set up an alert, a text message sent to a mobile phone number and an email message sent to a selected address, as a notification before any action is taken.

The Inactive Account Manager will accept up to 10 contacts to be notified in the event the account goes inactive. During the setup process the user may elect to share his or her data with any or all of the contacts. Once an account has timed out, the designated contacts may download data for three months.

The Google services that presently permit this include: +1s; Blogger; Contacts and Circles; Drive; Gmail; Google+ Profiles, Pages and Streams; Picasa Web Albums; Google Voice; and YouTube.

Facebook offers a similar post-mortem service: A Memorialization Request, to preserve a deceased person's Facebook account.

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User Rank: Apprentice
4/11/2013 | 7:04:16 PM
re: Google Tools To Control Data After Death
Surprising that this sort of feature hasn't been offered before. There's already been a lot written about what happens to people's social media accounts after they pass away.
Cara Latham
Cara Latham,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/12/2013 | 1:15:11 PM
re: Google Tools To Control Data After Death
I am also surprised that Google hadn't jumped on this previously, as Facebook's plan was announced quite some time ago. That said, it is good to see there are some controls, including that Google notifies your designated contacts prior to deactivating and allows you select how your data is distributed. I would wonder how this ties into their search algos. For example, does the Google+ profile of someone who is deceased no longer get pulled into searches? Does his or her slate get wiped clean? Would a record of him or her even be pulled up? I would be curious to know.
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