Concept for making use of Google’s ‘Inactive Account Manager’ feature

Presumably after considering the consequences of doing so, Google has become a sort of unusual executor of the digital estates of users who opt in to their ‘Inactive Account Manager’ feature.

They are given the option to set how long a ‘timeout period’ must pass before the system kicks in.

They are then allowed to automatically notify and potentially share data with up to 10 “trusted friends or family members”.

They can then add an autoresponder message, either for anyone who emails them or just for contacts.

Finally, they can set up a system to delete their account.

In a way, this looks a lot like a Dead man’s switch.

The concept

This system relies upon the autoresponder feature.

If you have data that you wish to make publicly available only after your death, encrypt it with a secure-yet-commonly-used algorithm like AES.

Put the key in the body of your Google post-mortem autoresponse email.

In all likelihood, the key will circulate and people will be able to decrypt the files which you wish for them to decrypt.

I am sure Google thought this through, but it seems to me that this system might encourage suicides. There can be a certain attraction in going out by means of a dramatic gesture, and this system makes it a lot easier.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

6 thoughts on “Concept for making use of Google’s ‘Inactive Account Manager’ feature”

  1. One who executes or carries out (a purpose, design, command, work, etc.); one who carries into action, or puts into practice (some quality); a conductor or manager (of affairs); an administrator or enforcer of (a law, vengeance, etc.); an agent, doer, performer, executer; in Sc. Law, one who serves a writ or executes a warrant.

  2. 3. a. A person appointed by a testator to execute or carry into effect his will after his decease. literary executor n. one who is entrusted with the care of the papers and unpublished works of a literary man.

  3. Google’s rolled out an “Inactive Account Manager” — a dead-man’s switch for your Google accounts. If you set it, Google will watch your account for protracted inactivity. After a set period, you can tell it to either squawk (“Email Amnesty International and tell them I’m in jail,” or “Email my kids and tell them I’m dead and give them instructions for probating my estate”) and/or delete all your accounts. This has a lot of use-cases, from preventing your secrets from being tortured out of you (before you go to a protest, you could set your dead-man’s switch to a couple hours — if you end up in jail and out of contact, all your stuff would be deleted before you were even processed by the local law) to easing the transition of your digital “estate.”

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