Warning: the following paragraph is pretty morbid/depressing.
A few months ago, something really tragic happened: one of my Facebook friends from elementary school died of a drug overdose. Even though I had not seen this girl in around 20 years, it was still incredibly sad. But that's not even the worst part! Months later, her account is still active. That means that I am constantly seeing her name on ads in my newsfeed and being asked to poke her. Not only does that seriously creep me out, but I consider it to almost be a desecration.
I have heard that if you prove to Facebook that a person has passed away, they will take the page down or turn it into a memorial. But who wants to go through all that? And besides, it doesn't give the account holder any control over what happens to their information. Its up to other people to take care of it for them, and who knows when they will even get around to it, if ever.
When it comes to what happens after you die, other companies should take a page from Google, which has decided to put the control over their information into the account holder's hands with the launch of Inactive Account Manager on Thursday
"Not many of us like thinking about death — especially our own. But making plans for what happens after you’re gone is really important for the people you leave behind. So today, we’re launching a new feature that makes it easy to tell Google what you want done with your digital assets when you die or can no longer use your account," Andreas Tuerk, Product Manager at Google, wrote.
The new feature allows users to choose how much time their account has to be inactive before their information gets deleted: either three, six, nine or 12 months. Google says that it determines inactivity based on last sign-ins, the user's web history, usage of Gmail (including the Gmail app on your phone), and Android check-ins.
While some might worry that their information will be deleted by accident, Google has set up some precautions to make sure that this doesn't happen.
First, an e-mail will be sent to the person's account one month prior to the information being deleted. Second, users can also choose up to 10 contacts who will be notified that the account has been declared inactive. Those contacts can then be set up to receive data from some or all of the following services: +1s; Blogger; Contacts and Circles; Drive; Gmail; Google+ Profiles, Pages and Streams; Picasa Web Albums; Google Voice; and YouTube.
Once all of that is done, the account holder can instruct Google to delete their account. That means that all data associated with theirGoogle products will be deleted, including publicly shared data like YouTube videos, Google+ posts or blogs on Blogger. The user's Gmail account will be deleted as well, and that Gmail username will not be able to be reused.
Look, I know that nobody wants to think about this stuff, but it's the reality of the situation. And, honestly, I'd rather know that my information will be taken care of the way I wanted it to, rather than becoming some sort of weird, social media ghost, still floating out there with no control over what I'm doing.
(Image source: http://www.stateofsearch.com)