Friday, April 12, 2013

After You Die, Life Goes on in the Digital World

Well, this is a bit of a morbid post for a Friday afternoon, but I’ve been reading the headlines about Google’s new Inactive Account Manager feature. It lets you decide what you want to happen if your account is inactive for a certain period of time, such as after you die. It sounds crazy to even think or worry about this sort of thing, but I have to say that it has been an issue with other social networks, especially Facebook.

I remember a few years ago when a colleague passed away, but his Facebook profile lived on. I kept getting “People You May Know” updates when I logged in and it was a constant reminder that he was no longer alive. At the time, Facebook didn’t have a very good solution for this. Unless someone had access to his password, they couldn’t take the page down or inform people that the person was deceased.

It looks like Facebook has since taken measures to deal with this issue, (see: Report a Deceased Person.) But, this brings to light some of the foresight that needs to go into launching and planning new social networking services. I’m sure the death of its members was the last thing Facebook worried about when they launched the social network several years ago, but it became a customer service issue and one that got more public attention then it needed to.

Now that so much of our lives are lived out online, we need to plan for this. Just like estate planning and living wills, we need to think about our digital life too and what happens to that after we die. I believe Google is taking a step in the right direction by being proactive with this new feature. I love having the option of being able to make my own decisions now about what happens to my information online when I die.

Since it is Friday and the weekend is almost here, I’ll quickly get off my soapbox on this topic and move on to more positive and happy thoughts of spending time with my family in real time. As for my digital life, I’ll make sure to get my plans in order soon, but let’s hope no one needs to implement them for a long time coming!

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