Sunday, April 14, 2013

"Inactive Account Manager" offered by Google to help members plan their digital estates

The service provider industry is coming around to address the issue of digital afterlife.

Google has announced a feature, called the “Inactive Account Manager”, available to account holders which allow users to supply friends or family members who would have access after their passing to various services and also to supply their wishes as to how long to wait to have accounts deleted, if at all.  The service will remind you when your account hasn’t been used in certain timeframes.  This sounds like an idea that could be useful for people who travel on foreign trips away from Google access (to China), people in the hospital, on long sequestered jury duty, and the like.  
The link for Google’s announcement is here.
 I have not tried this yet, but it appears that the members does not have to secure the permission of the family member or friend to be listed. 
The Washington Post reported on the matter Saturday, here.

ABC News gave a more detailed report, and compared it to Facebook’s policy, here. States are beginning to pass laws giving more powers to executors, viewing digital and intellectual property as part of the estate. 
I will soon be making decisions on what should happen to my own blogs and websites and social media accounts after I am gone.  I do not think that they can simply stay up forever.  In fact, conventional sites will not because the space is paid for, as is the space for Picasa pictures.  There is a tremendous library in my postings since 2006 on many policy issues, as well as many reviews of books and movies, crossed referenced in many ways.  I would hope there would be a way to make the material available to researchers of the history of such issues as COPA, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, censorship, liability, Section 230, SOPA, and the like.  Perhaps there could develop a way to work with Wikipedia.
I suspect that I will “know” from the “real” afterlife, but not be able to do anything about it, until starting over with another incarnation.  But that might be light years away, on another planet.  Will Google and Facebook transcend the speed of light and propagate to other solar systems?  (After all, there is a Youtube video somewhere claiming that Mark Zuckerberg is an extraterrestrial alien, like Clark Kent in "Smallville".)   
By the way, the idea of a “digital afterlife” may not be facetious.  In the mid 1990s, the now defunct Omni magazine published an article about the idea of downloading someone’s soul onto a harddrive before death (rather like in the movie “Cold Souls”, where Paul Giamatti’s fit into a chickpea).  

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