Google Death Manager? Search engine giant lets you plan digital afterlife with 'Inactive Account Manager' tool

Currently, Google grants a dead person’s family access to their digital presence only in special cases

To my brother, I leave... my Yahoo email account password.

A person’s “digital legacy” – that thoroughly modern concern encompassing one’s electronic correspondence, personal contacts and trove of photographs – is a fiddly inheritance for those already struggling with the loss of a loved one.

Will-writers and tech companies are turning their minds to what customers want done with their email and social media accounts when they are gone.

Google is to address the dilemma with a service allowing its users to control relatives’  and friends’ access to their online accounts after they die.

A range of websites, such as Pass My Will, Legacy Locker and Deathswitch, have emerged in recent years, helping people to administer post-mortem access to their digital estates with “e-wills”. Currently, Google will grant access to a deceased’s family members only in exceptional circumstances. Facebook will not give access, instead offering families the option to transform the deceased’s page into a memorial. Twitter will not provide access but will deactivate an account.

Allowing relatives or close friends to  view emails, for instance, could help them to locate important documents stored electronically – but would also open up all archived conversations.

Google’s new service, entitled “Inactive Account Manager”, gives users the option to delete the contents of their accounts, including their Gmail inboxes, should they remain inactive for three, six or nine months.

Alternatively, data can be passed on to selected contacts from all Google services, including YouTube, Google+ and the user’s address book. Nicola Plant, partner at the solicitor Pemberton Greenish, who has written a research paper on digital estates, welcomed the move. As it stands, she says, access tends to “die with you”.

There have been two recent test cases in the US. In 2010, the parents of a 21-year-old who committed suicide without leaving a note successfully challenged Facebook and Google’s  refusal to hand over their son’s passwords. They hoped that access to his accounts would offer some explanation for his suicide.

in 2004, the father of a US soldier killed in the Iraqi city of Fallujah wanted to create a memorial from his son’s emails but was denied access to the account by Yahoo! The refusal was later overturned by a court. There have yet to be any such cases in the UK.

More people are choosing to include internet passwords in their wills. “What people have online, their digital legacy, is like a scrapbook with sentimental value,” said Ms Plant. “The question is what of that do you want to be passed on?”

Matthew Strain, a partner at London law firm Strain Keville, says he holds passwords for an increasing number of clients, but that as more of our lives pass into “the cloud”, legal issues arise. “With the advent of Apple Passbook and Google Wallet, as soon as you have the password you have access to someone’s bank account,” he said. “If you leave your money to your wife but your best friend has access, they could spend that money on a holiday to Vegas. Then it would be down to your wife to follow legal proceedings to get it back.”

Both solicitors advise clients to keep an up-to-date list of passwords in a confidential place. Facebook and Twitter have no immediate plans to change their policies on this issue.

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
i100
Sport
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    IT Support Analyst - London - £22,000

    £20000 - £22000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chel...

    Sales Account Manager

    £30 - 35k + 25% Y1 OTE + Fantastic Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an e...

    Drupal Developer / Web Developer

    £18 - 25k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Drupal Developer / Web Developer (Drupal / PH...

    Software Developer

    £35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

    The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album