Deciding The Fate Of Your Digital Stuff After You're Gone

Apr 12, 2013
Originally published on April 12, 2013 5:56 pm

Google seems to think of everything for everyone, and the dead are no exception.

On Thursday, the company debuted the Inactive Account Manager: "You can tell us what to do with your Gmail messages and data from several other Google services if your account becomes inactive for any reason," Google explains on its public policy blog. Those services can include YouTube, Google Plus, Google Voice, Blogger and Picasa Web Albums.

Google's approach takes care of a lot of planning: advises that people include a social media clause in their will that explains what to do with their online accounts once they're gone.

But it's hard to keep track when the digital world is changing so quickly: Passwords can be changed or forgotten. Google isn't asking for an updated password list with all your various log-in information. All it wants to know is what to do with your digital profile when you're gone.

To set up your Inactive Account Manager, open your Gmail settings and choose when you want your data to be deleted across all your Google accounts — after three, six, nine or 12 months of inactivity. Before anything happens, Google texts you a month before the deadline to make sure that you didn't take an extended vacation from the Internet.

When time's up, it's your choice what happens to your account. Your Google identity can be completely wiped or your information can be passed onto trusted contacts that you select during setup.

Google says is its blog:

"We hope that this new feature will enable you to plan your digital afterlife — in a way that protects your privacy and security — and make life easier for your loved ones after you're gone."

At least Google is actually putting the dead to rest; there are companies keeping them virtually alive with the new trend of social media in the afterlife. Either way, somewhere in the (hopefully) distant future, you'll be remembered exactly how you'd like to be remembered online when you've left this earth.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit