In a first among major service providers, Google is offering to assist you in making your death arrangements. Only as it concerns your Google accounts. The issue of what becomes of your online accounts when you die is a thorny one, and Texas is one of the states that have yet to draft laws that will sort out cyber-death.
Google’s new feature is called Inactive Account Manager, accessible through your settings page, where you inform Google what you want done with Gmail messages, Picasa Web Albums, You-Tube videos, and all other Google services you use upon your demise…or inactivity.
“The Inactive Account Manager is the first action that we’ve seen on behalf of a major service provider like Google to proactively ask their users what should happen to their accounts when they’re gone,” Evan Carroll told KTRH. He is the co-author of “Your Digital Afterlife” and blogs at TheDigitalBeyond.com. “We’ve seen many services offer to destroy your user name and password and give those to someone once you’re gone, but it’s the first time we’ve seen a service take that proactive step and ask you what you would want to happen once you’re unavailable.”
George Washington University law professor Dr. Naomi Cahn is at the cutting edge of this legal cyber-quagmire. She told KTRH Google’s Inactive Account Manager “recognizes that people need to start to think about what happens to all their internet accounts when something happens to them.” Dr. Cahn says relevant laws in most states are in flux, and Texas is one of them. Cahn told KTRH that she is “involved in helping to write a new law that all states could adopt.”
With Google Inactive Account Manager you determine how long you want Google to wait before they follow through with your instructions: three, six, nine or 12 months. And just to make nothing happens too precipitously, Google will send a text message to your cell phone and then will send an email to whatever secondary address you supplied them with.
Expect other social media platforms to follow suit. “This is only an indicator that we’ll see more and more [companies] follow this pattern and issue a question of some sort to their users about what should happen once they’re gone,” according to social media expert Evan Carroll.