Google has added a new way to control what happens to your account when you stop using it — most likely because you're no longer around. A new Inactive Account Manager, available in Google's settings, allows you to set a timeout period for your account. If you go three months to a year without signing in, Google will first notify a selected phone number or alternate email address. After that, it will let you add up to ten contacts, who will be notified with a custom-written email and optionally given access to data from any or all Google services. As a last step, Google can also delete your account once any contacts have been notified.
In a blog post, Google detailed how to plan for your "digital afterlife." It's not the first company to deal with what happens to data when you die, or to implement a kind of dead man's switch. Even if they have a policy in place, sites like Facebook must deal with how to adapt a running flow of information into a static memorial. But up until now, Google has relied on "authorized representatives" of the deceased to submit applications if they want access to a Gmail or other Google account. With the Inactive Account Manager, it's creating the online equivalent of a living will.