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Google lets you plan for your digital afterlife

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Thanks to ‘Inactive Account Manager’, you’ll now be able to plan for your digital afterlife in regards to your Google account. On Thursday, Google announced that it is rolling out the new feature to let users determine what happens to “digital assets” from a wide range of Google services when they die or can no longer use their account. And thanks to the new feature, you can now leave your Gmail messages, YouTube videos and Google+ profile as a digital inheritance to your loved ones.

Inactive Account Manager offers option of giving ‘trusted contacts’ right to delete data and pictures. All these can be set on your new Inactive Account Manager section of your site where the feature will let you decide whether to trigger it if you haven’t logged in for three, six, nine or 12 months, and then either delete your data, or send all or selected elements to a nominated person of their choice.

. “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 Andreas Tuerk, product manager, in a Google Public Policy blog post announcing the new feature.

The move comes after increasing concern about problems encountered by families who have been trying to access or shut down accounts on sites such as Facebook after the sudden death of relatives, and amid controversy over the proposed “right to be forgotten” that the European Union is trying to introduce over digital information.

Google’s system will only work if set up by the user. Otherwise, family members who want to get access to email, video or other Google accounts will still have to provide a court order, due to data protection laws.

Google’s system will first send a warning text message to a mobile registered with the account, and a message to a backup email account nominated by the main account owner. If the user then checks in, the account is deemed active again and no action is taken.

In general, there is no easy way for relatives to gain access to their loved ones’ digital accounts after death.  Some social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter allow people to report the death of a user and choose from a number of options for what to do with the deceased person’s account. However, the user typically cannot decide what will happen to his or her account, beyond informing relatives ahead of time either directly or via online services.

Google’s new service joins a number of offerings to handle the aftermath of a “digital death”, typified by services such as Entrustet, Mywebwill, LegacyLocker and Deathswitch, which let people decide what messages and access to information they want surviving relatives or friends to see after their death

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