Most people hope to go to heaven when they die, but they don't
want all of their online information floating around in the cloud
with them. Now Google has a solution for data after death.
The internet giant has come up with a "digital will" that allows
consumers to decide what should be done with their data when they
have passed to the other side or if they plan to be out of Wi-Fi
range for a long period.
Officially called the "Inactive Account Manager", the new feature
allows holders of Google accounts to "tell Google what you want
done with your digital assets when you die or can no longer use
your account", the internet giant said.
Users can ask Google to delete their data after a long period of
inactivity, can have their favourite cat videos on YouTube sent to
the recipient of their choice after their passing, or have their
family snaps sent to a favourite sibling.
The new Google feature is a sign of an increasingly digitized
world in which people place as much value on their virtual
possessions as they do on their more traditional physical ones,
said Allison Druin, chief futurist at the University of Maryland.
"It used to be that we had scrapbooks or houses and passed them on
after we died, but the more we value our digital archive, the more
we want to pass it on and make sure it lives on after us -- that
the digital footprint we leave behind says who we are," Druin told
"Because we value the virtual world as much as the physical world,
we have to do this," she said.
Google is not the first company to provide consumers with data
solutions for the afterlife.
Deathswitch sends out passwords, bank account information, final
wishes, "unspeakable secrets", love notes, even the last word in
an argument to recipients specified by account holders when
certain triggers are met.
"When you do not enter your password for some period of time, the
system prompts you again several times. With no reply, the
computer deduces you are dead or critically disabled and your
pre-scripted messages are automatically emailed to those named by
you," Deathswitch says on its website.
Legacy Locker bills itself as "a safe, secure repository for your
vital digital property that lets you grant access to online assets
for friends and loved ones in the event of loss, death or
Google's Inactive Account Manager - which some in the blogosphere
have dubbed "data-after-death" - can be activated in Google users'