Google has tackled the sensitive subject of what to do with online real estate after someone dies by launching a function that can be set up to delete an account, send messages and even share data in the event of an untimely demise.
The search group’s product launch is the most high-profile address of people’s concerns about what will happen to their digital content following their death.
“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,” said Google in a blogpost about the product.
Various companies and sites have begun to address the topic, such as writing a digital will or employing a company to take care of your accounts after death, but few have gone as far as Google’s new feature.
“Most of your documents, maybe 90 per cent of your data, is not relevant for your afterlife, but maybe those 10 per cent are very, very important, whether it’s for your family, your wife, your kids, your business partners,” says Andreas Jacob, co-founder of SecureSafe, a company that helps people plan their digital footprint.
Facebook, the social media group, has a memorialisation process in place but it does not have an option to set up a plan in case of death. The social network’s pages remain up after a person passes away, often becoming a destination for people to leave parting words and memories of the deceased.
There is also a Facebook app called “if i die” that sends out a last message and lets a user pick trustees to handle the account, which currently lists 1,600 users.
“It’s still a small fraction of the public that sees this problem and realises it’s necessary,” says Mr Jacob. “This was not a topic 20 years ago, but now you’ve got to think about what’s going to happen to these documents.”
Google’s option allows for similar action. After you set a timeout period, you choose people to notify and whether to share your data with them. Finally, you choose whether you want to delete your account.
The process includes an auto-response from your Gmail, so that you can prepare what to say to your contacts from the afterlife.
Get alerts on Alphabet Inc when a new story is published