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Surprising Science

Google Gets Into The Digital Afterlife Business

The clumsily-named (by one exec’s own admission) Inactive Account Manager will take action on a user’s Google footprint if they haven’t logged in within a specified period of time.

What’s the Latest Development?

To the growing number of companies offering services to handle the digital records of the deceased, add one more: This week Google launched Inactive Account Manager, which, as the name describes, lets users determine what will happen to their Google-based data after a predefined period of inactivity. The information — which can range from Google+ contact lists to Gmail e-mails to Picasa photo albums to YouTube viewing history — can either be deleted or sent to “trusted contacts.” All of this has to be set up by the user themselves while they’re still alive; it can’t be done after the person is dead.

What’s the Big Idea?

The concept of Internet immortality has been questioned for some time now, and various efforts have appeared to give users more control over their online footprints both while they’re alive and — for relatives and friends — after they’re dead. With regards to the deceased, survivors continue to encounter problems with accessing and closing accounts, with some having to resort to a court order. For this reason a service like Inactive Account Manager should be placed in the same category as wills and life insurance: a tool used to “make life easier for your loved ones after you’ve gone,” says Google’s Andreas Tuerk.

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Read it at The Guardian


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