I saw an article recently about a fairly new feature from Google, which allows you to specify what happens to your “digital stuff” in the event of your untimely demise, and that got me to thinking…
Growing-up, I never had the chance to know my Grandfathers. Both had passed away when I was really, really little. But I remember, many years later, how cool it was to look at their old photos, home movies, and letters, and to have the chance to “get to know them” through those keepsakes.
I’ve since scanned all of that stuff, but came to the realization that like my own photos, movies, and writings, it’s all stored “in the cloud.” Google’s made it really easy for me to archive almost anything, and to control with whom it’s shared… I’ve shared some things with my spouse, others with my entire extended family, and some I’ve kept to myself.
I’ve even gone-back, and scanned old documents dating back to my childhood in my effort to go paperless, including my birth certificate, and baby pictures, and all of that is now stored in the Google Cloud, too.
In fact, all of my music (more than 10,000 songs) and most of my books are in Google’s cloud, as well.
But, what happens to it all when my number is up? Unlike the keepsakes I had from my Grandfathers, future generations won’t have access to any of it, not to mention the mementos of my own that I’ve accumulated over the years.
I Realized That Google’s Cloud Has Become my Complete Legacy, Digitized
That got me curious, so I wanted to see how others were thinking about this, and in the process, discovered a number of books and blog posts relating to the preservation of your digital mementos,. Clearly, this consideration is getting some traction.
One book in particular has a pretty good video on their publicity page, which explains the dilemma, and gives a good sense of what I’m talking about (although in my case, most of my “heirlooms” are on Google):
As a disclaimer, I haven’t read the book yet, but from that video, I’m curious to get a copy, and see what more I can learn (the book is “Your Digital Afterlife” by Evan Carroll and John Romano).
Since most of my “stuff” is on Google, I was excited to check-out this new feature.
Now, Google lets me define my Digital Heirs
In an effort to avoid sounding morbid (I assume), Google calls the feature, Inactive Account Manager.
I set it up, and was amazed at how simple was… Essentially, a series of quick forms that allow you to specify how long your account should remain inactive (not accessed) before Google should assume something’s wrong, and begin executing your prescribed plan.
I set my account up for 90 days (truth be known, I’m logged-in to my Google account constantly, so if there is no account activity for three months, something is seriously wrong). Once that trigger hits, the plan that I defined kicks-into action.
In my case, Google will first try to automatically ping me on my phone, to see if I’m still alive and kicking, and barring a response, they’ll automatically notify my wife, and my brother that the “keys to my stuff” have been handed-over to them. Google allows me to custom tailor the email they’ll receive (“from” me, so I had some fun with that), along with instructions on how to download all of my “stuff.”
There’s also an option to delete my account (and all my stuff) at that time, after they’ve been given a chance to retrieve it.
You’ll need to provide the email address and cell phone number for each of your “digital heirs,” so have that handy (they use the cell phone number to try & text them if there’s no response to the email).
The whole process only took a few minutes, and hey, “You never know,” right?
What’s nice is that you can do this once, and forget it. As long as you keep storing your “stuff” in your Google account moving forward, your affairs will always be in order, regardless of when your number is up.
Give the Google Inactive Account Manager a try for yourself!