What happens to your Google Account after your death? Here’s how you can keep your data safe

Our lives are increasingly dependent on the digital world, and Google is perhaps the one service that all of us rely on. Whether it is for storing photos or important files or our personal emails, control over one’s Google account is very critical given the amount of data. But what happens to our Google account and all of its data when we pass away? Luckily, Google ensures that you can make preparations for the worst-case scenario so that a loved one say a family member or friend can gain access to your account and retrieve some of this data. Thankfully, Google’s Inactive Account Manager’ ensures that users can share parts of their data with trusted family members or friends. This comes into place after the account has been inactive for a while. Or one can choose to ensure that all of their data is deleted in entirety upon their death. Here’s how Google’s Inactive Account manager works and how to set it up.

What is Google’s Inactive Account Manager?

According to Google’s support page, the “Inactive Account Manager is a way for users to share parts of their account data or notify someone if they’ve been inactive for a certain period of time.” Users have set it up from the account settings. Google says it looks at several signals to understand whether you are accessing your account. These include “your last sign-ins, your recent activity in My Activity, usage of Gmail (e.g., the Gmail app on your phone), and Android check-ins,” explains the support page.

If you’ve not made preparations for what should happen after an account has been inactive, then Google automatically deletes all the data. The page notes that each product is impacted differently. For instance, with Gmail, access is blocked to the service once the account has been active for a certain amount of time.

Google lets you pick the time period before the account is declared inactive. This could range from three months to six months, to 12 months to 18 months. No matter the time period you pick, Google also states that it will contact a user two months before this time is up.

I don’t want all my data gone after I pass away. How do I make sure a family member gets it?

Users can set up a trusted contact who will be given access to that data. Google says users will need to provide a phone number for that trusted contact. This is done to ensure that only the “trusted contact can actually download your data.” You can also add the trusted contact’s email id and pick and choose what Google data they should access. Remember, there are plenty of Google products, more than just Gmail or Google Photos. It might not make sense to hand over a lot of useless data to your loved one.

Google also clarifies that trusted contacts will receive a “notification once your account has been inactive for the specified amount of time”. They will not receive any notification during the setup of the process. Users can also pick an email with a personalised message, which can be sent to their trusted contact when Google shares the data with them. Google’s page explains that the email will have a footer “explaining that you’ve instructed Google to send an email on your behalf after you’ve stopped using your account.” The email will also have a link to all the shared data they can download.

So how do I set up this Inactive Account feature?

To set up the feature, just tap on ‘Manage your Google Account’ before your account profile picture on Gmail. Or just go to myaccount.google.com and log in to your account.

Now, go to the Data & Privacy tab and keep scrolling down.

You will see a ‘More Options’ tab. One of the options there is ‘Make a plan for your digital legacy’ with ‘plan what happens to your data’ written next to it. Tap on this

Google will now show a setup page for the Inactive Account Manager. This has three sections.  Tap on Start. You can also choose to get email reminders that the Inactive Account Manager is turned on.

In the second section, Google will ask you, “Choose who to notify & what to share”. Remember you can choose up to 10 people for us to notify. You can also give them access to some of your data. Add your trusted contact, their email id and what data they should access. Google will let you pick and choose that data from a separate menu which opens up when you add the contact. You will have to add their phone number as well. Once you’ve added that, you can also set up AutoReply which will be sent after your account becomes inactive. The page explains this will “inform anyone who emails you that you are no longer using this account.”

Finally, in the third section of this page, Google will ask what it should do with all of your data after your account has become inactive.

The section reads, “If you’ve decided to allow someone to download your content, they’ll be able to do so for 3 months before it gets deleted. If you choose to delete your Google Account, this will include your publicly shared data (for example, your YouTube videos, or blogs on Blogger). Learn more.”

What happens if someone passes away without adding to this plan?

Google admits on its page that it gets requests from family members for account access after their death, and many times users don’t have a legacy plan prepared. “We can work with immediate family members and representatives to close the account of a deceased person where appropriate. In certain circumstances we may provide content from a deceased user’s account,” says the support page. Google will not provide passwords or other login details.

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