Google announced a new feature this week called "Inactive Account Manager" that lets users decide what to do with their digital assets if they have not logged into their account for an extended period of time.
Assuming a user has died, this “digital will” will let Google hand over your data, including your Gmail, to a particular person or it will delete all of it after a set period of time.
“Not a great name, we know,” product manager Andreas Tuerk admitted.
“Not many of us like thinking about death — especially our own,” writes Tuerck. “But making plans for what happens after you’re gone is really important for the people you leave behind.”
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Users that choose to delete their data will wipe out all public and private info from Drive, Gmail, Google+, Blogger, Contacts and Circles, Picasa Web Albums, Google Voice and YouTube.
The feature is also useful in the event that someone is taking a long trip and will not be able to access their account for a while. Users can enable a “Timeout period” on their account from three months to one year.
Google says it uses different factors to determine if an account is “inactive,” including Gmail usage, web history and sign-ins. The features can also warn users via phone or email before any action is taken on their account.
When 18-year-old Marizella Perez went missing in 2011, her cousin, conservative blogger Michelle Malkin, fought to get Google to release her account data. Malkin and her family believed the account could give them insight into what happened to Marizella. Citing electronic privacy laws, Google said it couldn't turn the information over.
Hopefully, this digital preplanning can put an end to stories like this one.