Death and Your Google Account: The One Setting to Enable Now

I have only one hazy memory of Sunday, January 31, 2016: 

The utter silence of my parents and my cousin as they sat in my hospital room with anguish and worry on their faces. The loud sound of my exhale, watching my chest rise slowly with an inhale. And then I went back to sleep. 

Several weeks later, I was working late, buried in Google Drive, when I suddenly found myself thinking about that January day. I have a MASSIVE digital footprint. If I were ever to pass away, the task of accessing and managing my digital identity alone would be daunting, not to mention incredibly painful for the family member or friend who would need to do it.

What if I had remained debilitated in the hospital? For several weeks? Months? Or worse yet–

What if I had not recovered? What would happen to all my digital content? All my photos? How would someone access my email? To be able to sleuth out my bazillion passwords?

That evening, I discovered Google’s FANTASTIC solution to this inevitable issue:

“Assign an Account Trustee” 

Buried within your Google account’s privacy settings is a feature that runs a series of customizable settings should your account ever become inactive for a specific amount of time.

You can assign up to 10 contacts who will automatically receive complete access to your Google account after that set time. Or you can even request to automatically delete your entire account.

Go to the “Personal Info and Privacy”  page within your Google account settings and follow these five settings to enable the one setting you need to protect your digital life from unfortunate “real” life events.

As for myself, I set up my account trustees ten minutes after finding the feature.

In our increasingly digital society, death and our digital content will become a larger issue to handle. I recommend everyone practice good digital literacy and citizenship and do the same. And perhaps a setting such as “assign an account trustee” should be discussed with students and parents as well.