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Google Death: Inactive account manager helps you plan digital last will and testament

Google provided a somewhat morbid reminder of the increasing primacy of digital data in our lives with the release today of the euphemistically named Inactive Account Manager feature.

The service allows users to customize what will happen to their account data -- everything from Gmail messages to Drive content to Google+ posts -- if their account goes inactive for whatever reason. Options range from simply deleting everything to carefully arranged disbursement of personal information to selected contacts.

[ MORE PRIVACY: Widely used wireless IP cameras open to hijacking over the Internet, researchers say ]

Digital beneficiaries (who have to be verified via text message) will receive an email notifying them that the account has become inactive, along with links to any data that the user has chosen to share.

The system warns users, via email and text message, before any deletion or sharing takes place.

"Not many of us like thinking about death -- especially our own. But making plans for what happens after you're gone is really important for the people you leave behind," wrote project manager Andreas Tuerk in an official blog post. "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,"

Despite the fluffy name -- which Tuerk himself acknowledges is "not a great name, we know" -- Inactive Account Manager could well prove to be a comfort to survivors in the event of a user's death, not to mention a handy privacy prevention tool for those who eventually just move on from the Google ecosystem. (Google accounts can be deleted manually as well.)

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.


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