Google on Thursday began letting people plan out what is to be done with
their digital photos, documents and other virtual belongings after they
die or become incapacitated.
An "Inactive Account Manager" can be
used to direct Google to pass on data from online venues such as Google
Drive, Gmail, YouTube, or social network Google+ to particular people or
be deleted after being dormant for too long.
"What should happen
to your photos, emails and documents when you stop using your account?"
Google said in a message at an account settings page.
want your data to be shared with a trusted friend or family member, or,
you might want your account to be deleted entirely," the message
"Whatever the reason, we give you the option of deciding what happens to your data."
lets people specify how long to wait before taking action, and the
California-based Internet giant will send account holders email or text
message reminders before "timeout" periods are ended.
was added as people increasingly trust their data and memories online
social networks, data storage facilities, and other services hosted in
the Internet "cloud."
Facebook, for example, allows members to have accounts "memorialized" after they die.
in the United States and elsewhere are vague on the fate of digital
rights to online accounts after death, leading to complications and
legal wrangling for survivors who want access to the online services of
In one case that drew considerable attention, the
family of a US Marine killed in Iraq went to court in 2005 after being
blocked from getting access to his Yahoo email account, with the company
arguing that it could not release "private" information and that the
account was "non-transferable" under terms of service.
Some say a
separate document or executor for digital assets could be useful, with
one way to preserve access being to register accounts in the name of a
trust, control of which could be transferred on death.