Digital death: Google’s new tool helps you decide what happens to your data when you’re gone

12 Apr 2013

Like taxes, death is inevitable. But the question of what happens to a person’s data after they die has been answered by Google, which has developed a new tool to give people the power to decide if their data gets deleted after a period of time or can be accessed by a next of kin.

Nobody likes to think of these things but let’s be practical. You now live as much in the online world as much as the physical world and in the physical world things like wills have to be written and much more, besides.

So what happens to your Google data when you die?

Well, Google has come up with a new feature called Inactive Account Manager that tells Google what to do with your Gmail messages and data from several other Google services if your account is inactive for a certain period of time.

Users can choose to have their data deleted after three, six or 12 months of inactivity.

Or you can select trusted contacts to receive data from some or all of the following services: +1s; Blogger; Contacts and Circles; Drive; Gmail; Google+ Profiles, Pages and Streams; Picasa Web Albums; Google Voice and YouTube.

“Before our systems take any action, we’ll first warn you by sending a text message to your cellphone and email to the secondary address you’ve provided,” Google product manager Andreas Tuerk explained.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years