Google Introduces Dead Man’s Switch For Your Accounts

(Google)

(Google)

More than a decade ago, I had an online friend who abruptly disappeared, not answering e-mails or showing up on any of her favorite sites. Did she lock herself out of her accounts? Did her parents cancel their dialup? Did something happen to her? I never found out, and never would. What if you could prevent that? What if you could send a notice out to all of your contacts after you don’t log in to your accounts for a set period, and “will” your data to someone else? There are workarounds to do this, but now such a feature is built in to Google.

No one wants to think about their own death, but not thinking about it has a zero percent chance of preventing it. The Inactive Account Manager (great euphemism) can send your data from many Google services to your digital heirs, alert your contacts, delete the accounts, or do all or none of the above. It affects Blogger, Contacts/Circles (in Google+) Drive, Gmail, Google+ profiles, Pages and Streams, Picasa albums, Google Voice, and YouTube.

It also serves as a useful self-destruct button. Don’t want anyone watching your stupid YouTube videos after you’ve long forgotten that you had an account? Don’t want your kids to find your password notebook years after you’re gone and read your dirty chat sessions with their dad? You can have your account auto-destruct after trying to reach you using other e-mail addresses and by text message. You know, in case you just get tired of Gmail and wander off somewhere else.

Self-destruct buttons on all sorts of online accounts would be nice. You could torch abandoned Twitters and vacation albums and kill off forgotten e-mail accounts. Would that be a good thing?

Plan your digital afterlife with Inactive Account Manager [Google Public Policy Blog]