What happens to your data when you log out for the final time?

Like most of us, I've several times endured the poignancy of stumbling across deceased friends' digital remains. They can be online, in the form of Facebook entries or calendar appointments; or they might be sudden reminders such as emails sent or contact details suddenly swimming into view on the screen.

The most shocking thing, I've found, is that they always look newly minted and fresh. You then have a Mary Celeste moment, reminded again of just how unexpected and unwelcome the death in question was.

I don't know whether Google is so desperately in search of brownie points that it has decided to show an unexpectedly tender and sentimental side to its corporate personality. Whatever the case it's turned its attention to how to properly dispose of some of those digital remains (at least the ones it's responsible for) and it's come up with the idea of a digital will.

In fact it's a (wouldn't you know it?) 'Inactive Account Manager' and the idea is that you specify in advance what should happen to all your Google-stored data (messages, photos and so on) if your account were to be inactive after a certain amount of time.

Data can either be deleted after an inactive period by Google. Or you can select what are essentially trustees to look after your material and ongoing activity after you've either passed on to the cloud in the sky or have been shooting rapids on the Orinoco for six months, fully intending to get back within radio range to take up where you left off.

It all makes sense... the only questions are: Why has the feature taken so long to formulate? And will the trustees be plagued by carefully-targetted funeral service ads when the Inactive Account Manager kicks in?

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