We’ve touched on the afterlife of digital assets here at Slaw on many occasions. Google has just announced a new service that adds an interesting direction: allowing users to pass along the data behind (rather than the password to) their various Google services.
A new group of settings under Google accounts will allow for these directions, called the Inactive Account Manager. Users will have the choice of destroying their data after a set period of time, or to pass along their data to a trusted contact or contacts. Google will also try notifying you by text or your alternate email address (in case you were simply inactive virtually; not physically), before initiating any of your inactive account directives.
Techcrunch has an excellent review and set of instructions for activating these instructions. I will add two observations of my own:
- My Google Apps business account is not currently qualified. This seems to be a trend with Google products. The innovations happen outside of Google Apps, and then are introduced later. It’s frustrating, as I’m sure more than a few business owners would appreciate access to this functionality.
- I don’t think releasing a deceased person’s passwords is a terrible thing, or a sure fire method for attracting account abuse. However, this ‘data only’ option sure seems like a step in the right direction for the treatment of a deceased person’s virtual accounts. It won’t take unauthorized account usage out of the equation entirely. But it won’t make it as easy as clicking the send button on someone’s email either.
I think we’ll see other web services move in this ‘data only’ direction.