Things to do on Google when you're dead

Worried about what'll happen to your Google data after you're gone? Google's Inactive Account Manager lets you bequeath your unworldly goods before the final curtain falls

As Yeats once wrote, things fall apart. Bridges fall, buildings crumble, flesh withers and decays. But data lives on forever.

To help ease us into the inevitable, Google has created Inactive Account Manager, about as bloodless a euphemism for passing into the hereafter as you manage. Clearly someone at Google has a promising future as a funeral home director.

[ Cash in on your IT stories! Send your IT tales to offtherecord@infoworld.com. If we publish it, we'll keep you anonymous and send you a $50 American Express gift cheque. | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. | Get the latest insight on the tech news that matters from InfoWorld's Tech Watch blog. ]

Before you shuffle off this mortal coil, you can decide which of your survivors gets access to all your unworldly goods. To your beloved spouse, you may leave all your contacts, blog posts, +1's, and YouTube videos; to your attorney your Gmail messages, Google Drive files, and Latitude locations; to your secret lover, all those naughty Picasa photos. And so on.

Google IAM lets you set up an auto responder on Gmail so that when someone tries to reach you after, well, you know, you can respond from the beyond the grave. I already know what mine will look like:

The person you have reached is no longer in service. If you feel you have received this message in error, please check your copy of The Tibetan Book of the Dead and try again.

If you're someone I knew and loved, please remember me fondly. If you're a PR person looking to see if I got your latest press release, rest assured that I did and that I'm not interested. And if you are just another spammer, I'll see you in Hell, pal.

You can tell Google how long to hold out hope before IAM kicks in -- after 3 months of inactivity, 6 months, 9 months, or a year. I mean, we don't want to drag out the suffering forever. Eventually it's time to move on.

Though it sounds a bit like a sick joke -- and had Google announced it two weeks ago, I would have assumed it was -- this is a real problem in our digital age.

Facebook has a process in place where you can "memorialize" a deceased loved one's account, creating a kind of permanent social media tombstone where the answer to the status update prompt "what's on your mind?" never changes, but they require legal documentation, such as a death certificate. As far as I know, there's no way to bequeath your account to anyone prior to expiring or to parcel out bits of it to favored relatives.

Likewise, Twitter has a process where your grieving loved ones can de-commission your account, but they make you jump through even more hoops than Facebook does. At least Google lets you do it now, before the Grim Reaper has appeared upon the stage, and without all the hand-wringing and bureaucratic fuss.

I know I'm dying to try it.

What will be your final words on Google be? Post your post-mortem messages below, or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "Things to do on Google when you're dead," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies