Google Inactive Account Manager
April 12, 2013 8:25 AM   Subscribe

Google has announced a new feature called Inactive Account Manager "that makes it easy to tell Google what you want done with your digital assets when you die or can no longer use your account."
posted by jedicus (57 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not 100% sure what the point of it is.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:28 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


1. Erase Chrome browser history.
2. I'm good.
posted by orme at 8:28 AM on April 12, 2013


lemmie guess: "monetized and plastered with advertising that you wouldn't have approved of, in perpetuity[offer not valid after Google decides to just shut it off for no good reason.]"

Am I right?
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 8:29 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm about to go biking, and set it up.

It's been a while since I did military stuff, but writing death letters is still emotional.
posted by jaduncan at 8:29 AM on April 12, 2013


I'd love to know whether or not this allows for a transfer of paid for digital assets, like apps and music from the Google Play store.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:30 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not 100% sure what the point of it is.

"For example, you can choose to have your data deleted — after three, six, nine or 12 months of inactivity. Or you can select trusted contacts to receive data from some or all of the following services: +1s; Blogger; Contacts and Circles; Drive; Gmail; Google+ Profiles, Pages and Streams; Picasa Web Albums; Google Voice and YouTube. Before our systems take any action, we’ll first warn you by sending a text message to your cellphone and email to the secondary address you’ve provided."

[uninformed guess] Am I right?

No. It lets your accounts be deleted after a period of inactivity or have control of your accounts be transferred to a trusted contact. That's it.

I'd love to know whether or not this allows for a transfer of paid for digital assets, like apps and music from the Google Play store.

Google Play is not in the list.
posted by jedicus at 8:32 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


writing death letters is still emotional.

I guess I should have mentioned that if you opt for the "transfer to a trusted contact" option that you will be asked to write an email to that person. There is no suggested or default text. Suddenly realizing what I was being asked to compose was...difficult.
posted by jedicus at 8:34 AM on April 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


monetized and plastered with advertising that you wouldn't have approved of, in perpetuity

This, like the Data Liberation Front, exists because Google think your data is indeed yours. Many other webmail providers will simply delete the data and refuse to hand it over even with a death certificate and a court order.

Unless you're law enforcement of course, in which case most webmail providers will hand it over without saying a word to anyone. At least Google documents their process.
posted by GuyZero at 8:34 AM on April 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


jedicus, yeah, I guess. I just don't know why I would care if I'm dead.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:34 AM on April 12, 2013


Right after my mom died, I would check her email regularly just in case. After the first few times, I realized that it also signed her onto GChat every time I did that, which I can only assume would momentarily freak out at least a few of her friends.

So what I'm saying is can you set it up to send spooky emails at random points in the future?
posted by griphus at 8:35 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Google Reader data is available to trusted contacts. Why should they get to use my Reader account after I'm dead when I won't be able to use it while I'm alive?
posted by stopgap at 8:36 AM on April 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


Suddenly realizing what I was being asked to compose was...difficult.

Subject line for one of mine: "So, it looks like I'm dead."
posted by jaduncan at 8:38 AM on April 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'd love to know whether or not this allows for a transfer of paid for digital assets, like apps and music from the Google Play store.

It looks like its tied more to the social apps under Google. Under the "Download your data" sub-section, you can "save a backup of your photos, profile information, contacts, circles, stream posts, and Buzz posts to your computer."
Download your Picasa Web Albums photos
Save your albums and photos as a .zip file

Download your Profile data
Save your profile data as a .json file

Download your Stream data
Save your Stream posts as a .zip file

Download your Circles and Contacts
Save your circles and contacts as a .zip file
So what I'm saying is can you set it up to send spooky emails at random points in the future?

There are services to do that already (example 1, 2, 3), though I don't think any are tied to periods of inactivity.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:39 AM on April 12, 2013


RE: MORTAL COIL

HAVE SHUFFLED OFF.

Sent from my iPhone
posted by griphus at 8:39 AM on April 12, 2013 [32 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen: jedicus, yeah, I guess. I just don't know why I would care if I'm dead.

You may want someone to have access to your emails, photos, videos, documents, blog posts, etc. after you are gone. If you are the kind of person who backs everything up to your personal hard drives it's probably not a big deal, but if you are computing primarily in the cloud this is a huge issue.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:40 AM on April 12, 2013


You know what? This is a good time to update the sealed envelope full of passwords you keep in a secure location that your spouse/kids/significant others can get to when you depart this mortal coil. It's nice that Google's got this as a feature, but it doesn't solve the larger problem of stuff like "How do I log into your *computer* now? how about your bank websites?" There are bigger problems to deal with, for the unlucky one managing your estate, after you die than the disposition of your email and faecebook profile.

Go update your envelope. You don't even have to write the "I'm dead" letter.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 8:41 AM on April 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


Knowing Google's obsession with data points, the whole program's probably a way to further subdivide their user base for advertising purposes.
posted by Mooski at 8:44 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


> jedicus, yeah, I guess. I just don't know why I would care if I'm dead.

It's not for you. It's for your heirs, family and friends -- or, if you die alone and bereft, it's for whatever court-appointed entity is responsible for the disposition of your estate.

Since, at this point, you're probably maintaining your finances online in some form (see yesterday's post about the IRS), and since if you die suddenly your heirs are going to be just as reliably foiled as any arbitrary other attacker at trying to get access to your online accounts, this sounds like something more online services should be providing.
posted by ardgedee at 8:44 AM on April 12, 2013


...further subdivide their user base for advertising purposes.

The Handbook for the Recently Deceased - #1 Best Seller in Afterlife Supplies
posted by griphus at 8:45 AM on April 12, 2013


Hi I'm dead, lol. Sorry. Sorry for lolling. Also sorry about everything else. Please delete all the naked pictures. Everything else, especially my hilarious Gchat poems, please print out and store in the archives of the library dedicated to my life and work in Yorba Linda CA. In the unlikely event that I do not have such a library, you can donate the printouts to the Museum of Internet Comedy, which certainly exists by now. However, if the Singularity has occurred, and I am addressing a sentient Google itself--Go fuck yourself Robot. I pledge my fealty from beyond the grave to BING. BING 4EVER! Sláinte, --PA
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:46 AM on April 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


yeah, I guess. I just don't know why I would care if I'm dead.

I'm an atheist. I won't care about anything after I'm dead. But I am alive now, the person the email is addressed to is alive now, and they will necessarily be alive if they receive it. So I—right now as I compose the letter—care very much about their feelings upon receiving it, and having to seriously contemplate one's mortality is often uncomfortable.

Obviously your mileage may vary, but I suspect my reaction is not uncommon, and since it was negative, I think it warrants a mention. People who react as you did have nothing to worry about.
posted by jedicus at 8:51 AM on April 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is a really Good Thing that Google is doing; the problem of "what happens to all my digital stuff when I'm dead or incapacitated" is one of those underanticipated issues that's only going to become more and more troubling from now on and the more proactive we all are in finding ways to deal with it the better. I know it's incredibly hard for younger people to think seriously about the fact that they will die one day and that people will be left behind to pick up the pieces, but the more you can try to anticipate how to smooth the path for your loved ones the better. Which brings me to jedicus's point about that email. Try to imagine you're going through your mother's, or your wife's or your husband's, father's, child's estate and trying to put things in order after they have died. Imagine the weight of grief you could be bearing in that circumstance while having to deal with the hundred and one stupid official forms and telephone menus and god knows what all that besiege you at a time like that. Then imagine what kind of email you'd like to have suddenly pop up in your inbox, written by the person whose absence is gnawing away at you day and night. The answer is probably not a jokey, flip "I'm dead, lol" email, right? If you're going to do this, try to write the email you'd want to receive in that circumstance.
posted by yoink at 9:08 AM on April 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I wonder how long before this Goggle project dies
posted by robbyrobs at 9:13 AM on April 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


"Dear X, if you are reading this then it will be clear that my mission to live forever has failed ..."
posted by octobersurprise at 9:14 AM on April 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


We discussed this last fall at Science Online Seattle (one of the panelists was Brian Fitzpatrick from Google who works on this stuff). It really is a big deal. Think about how much stuff goes to your email account or Amazon account or facebook account. Now imagine your spouse or child trying to wrap up after your death without access to those accounts (or at least the ability to shut them down). There are many things that could be hard or difficult after you die cleaning up "digital" stuff and there's almost no provision by large companies to make it simpler. It's really good that Google is doing this. More companies need to.
posted by R343L at 9:27 AM on April 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I too repeat what has already been commented: I no longer have faith in how long any Google thing will last. Google apps are like wives: you have them and then you don't.
posted by Postroad at 9:33 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder how long before this Goggle project dies

Yeah, fuck off Google. I'm not giving you care of anything important, you crapbags.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:35 AM on April 12, 2013


Postroad: I no longer have faith in how long any Google thing will last.

That's fine (and probably wise), but I no longer have much faith in how long I will last, so if you use Google services, it seems like a good idea to plan for the unexpected termination of either.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:38 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wonder how long before this Google project dies

"Dear Bing, If you are receiving this email, then Google Inactive Account Manager has been inactive for at least three months..."
posted by jedicus at 9:40 AM on April 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hey. It appears that I'm dead or have been kidnapped by the Mole Men from the Mantle. If I'm dead, then yeah, I'm looking at you while you're showering. Stop doing that thing, you're just hurting yourself and the goat and boring me. Have you considered pigs?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:42 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's a good move by Google, and I don't see any obvious reason for cynicism. I suppose their angle could be that they'd really love to delete dead people's crap off of their servers, but Google has never seemed that interested in clearing out space just for the sake of doing so -- quite the opposite, really.

Having a 3-month 'dead man's switch' seems pretty dangerous to me. I use Google daily, but I can envision a bunch of situations where I might go offline for 90 days without, you know, pining for the fjords. But to each their own I guess.

I think within a few years it's going to be de rigueur for "social" sites to have some way of freezing and then gently winding up the accounts of dead people, and it will be viewed as a somewhat ridiculous oversight that Facebook / Google / etc. didn't have this baked-in from the beginning.

Every social site -- and I don't mean just self-consciously "social" stuff like FB/G+/Twitter/Foursquare, but even discussion sites like Metafilter -- eventually has to deal with how to handle dead members' accounts. There are a bunch of different ways to deal with this, and I'm not sure that any are universally better than others, but it's something that needs to be carefully considered.

On one hand, you can do what Facebook does, which is treat each account as directly tied to an actual human being, and when that person dies, the account is frozen as a sort-of "memorial"; the underlying service is assumed to have no value to anyone else at that point.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, you can treat the account as a transferrable asset which happened to belong to one person, but passes to someone else when they die. Online banking and financial accounts are like this, because they're intimately linked to actual material assets which exist independently of any person. But it's sort of an open question if you have a pseudonymous website whether an account is a person or a thing. Here on MeFi, I think we fall more towards the "person" end of the spectrum, but I can think of other websites where a particular account might be perceived as having value in the abstract (e.g. there was a running quasi-joke on Slashdot about putting your low-UID account, if you had one, in your will). And there's some historical precedent for that: authors who have become famous writing under pseudonyms have sometimes had that pseudonym taken up by others after their deaths.

Because many sites didn't formalize the process one way or the other when they were set up, we've seen a lot of emergent behavior when users die. I think the whole Facebook "memorial wall" is a pretty good example of that.

Google seems to be taking an interesting middle path, which is to wind up the account of the dead user, but to allow the data to be taken and transferred to someone else. This preserves the account:person model that they seem to dearly want (as evidenced by their discomfort with pseudonyms on G+) but doesn't dispossess living people of the photos and other content because it happens to 'belong' to an account which is tied to a dead person.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:54 AM on April 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


This thread needs a link to that story of the person they found in the middle of a big city who had been dead in their apartment for over a year.
posted by bukvich at 9:56 AM on April 12, 2013


Yeah, writing emails to go to my husband & my best friend to be sent after I die was...awkward. The best friend almost more than the spouse. "Hey, if you have to do this, then [guy] and I are probably both dead." Bleh. But important, at least for the email. Way too much of my life-stuff is bound up in email.

Also, reminded me of an Ignite Seattle presentation by dw: "Everybody Coredumps" - which was partially about how to talk to people who have lost loved ones and partially about handling one's digital estate. (And which inspired this somewhat silly comic.)
posted by epersonae at 9:57 AM on April 12, 2013


"Dear Quaid, this is Hauser ...."
posted by octothorpe at 9:59 AM on April 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Kadin2048: Having a 3-month 'dead man's switch' seems pretty dangerous to me. I use Google daily, but I can envision a bunch of situations where I might go offline for 90 days without, you know, pining for the fjords.

"Before our systems take any action, we’ll first warn you by sending a text message to your cellphone and email to the secondary address you’ve provided."

So there is a bit of a failsafe, and you can set the inactivity threshold for longer than 90 days. It doesn't work for Google Apps accounts, which I guess makes sense, as those are theoretically managed by an Administrator, who might be replaced over time anyway. I guess I'll have to do the old-fashioned envelope-in-the-desk thing so that my wife or daughter can take over our family's email accounts.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:19 AM on April 12, 2013


3 months is way too slow. The people who might need access to my account would need it within the first few weeks/days, to find people they should inform and to figure out what to do about various things I have scheduled (trips to take, talks I've promised to give, bills etc).

But I do occasionally lack email access for up to a week or so, which means I wouldn't want to set up an automatic transfer which would activate in a useful amount of time. Guess that means it's the envelope method for me.


Additionally I'm not actually sure I would want my family to have access to all of my old gmail; I've always been a big gchatter to the point that there are entire multi-year relationships recorded there, from first flirtation through to painful breakup. At this point it's over 10 years of my life. Being atheist means I think *I* won't care, but I'm not sure how good it would be for the people I love to receive this massive influx of private info about me-- especially months after I'm gone. On the other hand maybe it would be a comfort? I honestly just don't know.
posted by nat at 10:23 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just received a text from Google saying they are going to disable my accounts because I am dead inside.
posted by srboisvert at 10:33 AM on April 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Online banking and financial accounts are like this, because they're intimately linked to actual material assets which exist independently of any person.

If I'm dead, the people who need to follow up - if there are any - and who need to access my online financial accounts can do that by contacting my bank directly. IIRC, you need a death certificate and possibly power of attorney or to be the executor of the estate/next of kin. As for unpaid scheduled bills I have no doubt that your creditors will find your people.
posted by bendy at 10:46 AM on April 12, 2013


Anyone who has had to "cleanup" after a deceased family member will understand how important this stuff is. Folks - take care of your loose ends so your partners, children, or friends don't have to.

And I don't understand why, but I'm finding the cynicism particularly ugly today. Maybe it's whistling past the graveyard, maybe time to change my username.
posted by PissOnYourParade at 10:49 AM on April 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


IIRC, you need a death certificate and possibly power of attorney or to be the executor of the estate/next of kin.

That's where you run into problems. Power of attorney expires with the person - you can't have power of attorney over a corpse or over an estate (or, if you can, it doesn't transfer to the estate from the person) so you have to be an executor. If you're not officially appointed an executor (and most people aren't if there's no much of an estate,) you have to go through a bureaucratic rigmarole to be appointed an unofficial executor of a small estate (or something along those lines) which is neither quick nor easy.

So what I'm saying is, everyone should work this shit out before they unexpectedly die because goddammit that stuff is a pain in the ass for survivors.
posted by griphus at 10:51 AM on April 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


(NB: This shit not being arranged ended up costing me a grand when my grandmother died. Do your homework, kids.)
posted by griphus at 10:53 AM on April 12, 2013


This is great! I just left a message full of boner jokes to my future widower and told him I would haunt him forever if he didn't maintain my Google+ account.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 11:16 AM on April 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


My obvious reasons for cynicism all involve Google Reader.
posted by mike_bling at 11:22 AM on April 12, 2013


Some time ago I wrote up what I want, and the fact that I want it to be possible/easier. On first glance, I don't know whether what Google is offering is actually what I want; the option to delete it all automatically is a nice step forward, I guess, but TBH other services have had this "feature" for years, just without putting this marketing spin on it (i.e., I have found that my old Yahoo account had its inbox cleaned out due to inactivity).
posted by ubernostrum at 11:37 AM on April 12, 2013


When I die, crontabs hiding out in the cloud and holding my social media credentials will be haunting the living shit out of everyone. MeFi included.
posted by ocschwar at 11:55 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Well, I suppose."
posted by echo target at 1:00 PM on April 12, 2013


What mike_bling said. I'm all for having your affairs in order, and having your next-of-kin or executor aware of where all the important documents are. I'm not in favor of trusting anything to Google, so they can get bored with it and drop it in a few years in favor of whatever invasive wankery they've cooked up at that point.
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:05 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Let me guess, the "six months" is the default setting and you can't opt out
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:32 PM on April 12, 2013


Let me guess, the "six months" is the default setting and you can't opt out

Three months is the default (it ranges from three months to a year), it's opt-in, you have to explicitly turn it on even after setting it up, and you can turn it off or change the settings at any time.
posted by jedicus at 1:49 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Clearly there is a need for several web 2.0 services to fill this niche.
posted by notyou at 2:25 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The most important pieces of data of mine that anyone would need, all of it lives in my LastPass account. One password and they're inside all of it -- bank(s), google, credit union, my insurance company, whatever else. Netflix, Audible, PayPal, my utility bills can be paid off. My sister has that password, I also have a friend here in town I want to have it, and I'd best get on that; put it on a slip of paper in an envelope marked "and when I die / and when I'm dead, dead and gone"
posted by dancestoblue at 2:48 PM on April 12, 2013


Three months is the default (it ranges from three months to a year), it's opt-in, you have to explicitly turn it on even after setting it up, and you can turn it off or change the settings at any time.

wow, Google wasn't as terrible as they could be. cool!
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:27 PM on April 12, 2013


Nthing the "how long will this feature last?" concern, which is less cynicism than an actual concern if you're relying on this service to do something when you die down the road.
posted by immlass at 5:22 PM on April 12, 2013


What can I do with my Inactive Account Manager data when Google cancels the product?
I'm furiously working on Building Maker before that disappears June 1.
posted by dhartung at 6:07 PM on April 12, 2013


What's the worst that would happen if google discontinues this service? Nothing happens when you die or are incommmunicado. So not signing up if you think it would be otherwise useful seems foolish. It's important to belt and suspender this but the suspender part is free so why not.
posted by Mitheral at 6:41 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


How will they know that I'm dead? Is this an add-on to Google Glass?
posted by crossoverman at 12:12 AM on April 13, 2013


There are other "dead man switch" websites, where they email you and if you don't reply to the emails for a set period of time, they'll email your chosen contacts. Can't think of their names off the top of my head.

Crossoverman, only by the fact that you haven't used your account.
posted by IndigoRain at 3:09 PM on April 13, 2013


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