Managing digital assets after death

digital assets willFrom the Telegraph 12/04/13:

Google has launched a new service to help its users make an online will that dictates what happens to their data after they die - either permanently deleting it, or passing it on to loved ones as a digital inheritance.

Inactive Account Manager lets users of all Google services choose "trusted contacts" who will have access to their data once their account has laid dormant for three, six or 12 months, depending on their preference.

As a final warning before releasing the data, Google will send an email and text message to the user to make sure that they have passed on, and not merely left their accounts inactive.

Alternatively, users can choose to have their data deleted permanently.

Google product manager Andreas Tuerk said, in a blog post announcing the launch: "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."

A growing proportion of a person’s assets are in digital or virtual form these days - so much so, wills often have a provision for digital assets now. In fact, I blogged about it only recently.

Just including passwords within a standard will can have obvious drawbacks, ranging from potential security risks if the testator is careless with their copy, right through to problems keeping it up to date if you (sensibly) change your passwords regularly. 

As Google sensibly ask:

What should happen to your photos, emails and documents when you stop using your account? Google puts you in control.

If you’re a user of Google’s services, this one really is a no-brainer.

Still, I like their avoidance of difficult subjects in the blurb on their Inactive Account Manager page.

There are many situations that might prevent you from accessing or using your Google account.

It’s strange that they don’t expressly mention being dead, comatose or left in a persistent vegetative state.

Funny that.

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