Jul, 25 2014

I hate to sour the mood, but one day you’re going to die. It might be easier to ignore that fact, but all too often that’s exactly what we do, and in our wake we leave a mountain of complications that cause interfamily conflict, legal battles, and obnoxious amounts of wasted time.


We take day-to-day things, like E-Mail, for granted- but what if something were to happen to you? Would your entire account including your pictures, movies, and documents, collect dust and eventually disappear without someone who knows or who can recover your password?

Or perhaps just the opposite. Maybe you’ve got a lot of private facets of your life that you wish to remain private: could family or friends legally gain access to your account, uncovering some secrets that are so embarrassing that you blush in the afterlife?

Not if you use Google’s Inactive Account Manager, a feature I accidentally stumbled upon yesterday.


Here’s how it works:

  • Set a time period after which, if you haven’t logged in for that duration, you’re considered inactive
  • When that time approaches, Google will warn you via TXT and E-mail alerts
  • Once officially deemed “inactive”, Google will notify up to 10 pre-selected contacts that you’re inactive
  • These contacts will gain limited access to your account, based on settings you select
  • You can set an auto-response for incoming e-mail, warning them of your inactivity

It’s a pretty brilliant solution if you’ve got the gusto to set it up- and you should. This tool could be especially valuable if you’ve disappeared without a trace, perhaps giving law enforcement additional information that leads to a resolution. I know, I know… this is a depressingly sinister topic, but a little preparation can go a long way.

You can even customize what Google services each separate contact can access (see above) and have a custom message prepared for each one (see below):


Almost got a little teary eyed typing that… and hopefully it never gets sent, but if it does, could be fun to leave a little custom goodbye to your loved ones. And honestly, having to write them in the first place provides a nice little sense of reflection on your life and what’s important.

The service isn’t perfect and there are two things I’d specifically like to see changed:

  1. The minimum length before you’re considered “inactive” is 3 months. If I haven’t used Google services for 24 hours someone should probably start a search party. I can appreciate the reasons why the longer durations should be the default, but even a 1 month or 2 month option would make a lot of sense.
  2. Certain services should have more fine grained access options. Perhaps I have some private e-mails in my account but they’re relegated to a certain tag or folder, why not allow users to selectively provide or deny access to these specific areas? Access to everything or nothing makes for some tough decision making.

Alternatively, if instead of being worried about giving people access you want to make sure nobody gets access, you can delete your entire account on the spot the moment you’re considered inactive.


Privacy paranoia people, weird fetish folks, cheating-on-your-spouse crapheads, and others take note: you’ll probably want to set this up right now. Or maybe you just don’t want family and friends dragging out the grieving process by hanging on every little word you’ve written, picture you’ve taken, etc…

Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, take a few minutes to reflect on the people most important to you, what you’d want to say to them in your absence, and if giving them access to your online identify would help them in any way.

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