Wills, living testaments, and post-mortem preparations have gone digital! Millennials might be more concerned with tonight’s happy hour than “end-of-life planning,” but the legal precaution of protecting one’s personal assets — no matter how large — in case of death or incapacitation, is an important thing to consider. Now your digital assets and data can be treated with the same level of respect and certainty.
The digital-legal landscape is still an uncertain territory, in many respects, as laws in the U.S. and elsewhere are vague on the fate of digital rights after death. Google has stepped in to offer a new and powerful Inactive Account Manager service, setting a new standard in the burgeoning intersection of estate planning and digital content. As more data is being trusted to the hands of private social networks, storage and cloud sharing facilities, richer protocols and better control settings are becoming necessary.
Google’s service helps you plan for your digital afterlife with a clean interface and a few simple settings. You can set a timeout period, where if Google’s servers detect that you’ve been dormant or inactive for X number of months, it will take action. Up to 10 trusted friends or family members can be notified and/or receive all or some of your data at this point. If you don’t want to share any of your digital life with anyone, you can just have your accounts and data self-destruct entirely.
Bits to bytes, digital dust to digital dust.
The eventual flourishing and mainstream acceptance of these kinds of digital legal services will mark an important evolution in our understanding of digital content and data in our society. The old discussion placed much of the burden of privacy and safety of online data on internet users, and being cautious about one’s information on the internet is still very necessary. However, the simple “internet user beware” mantra is giving way to requests for deeper internet services like Google’s “Inactive Account Manager” and others, with improved openness, options and assurances of security. I think this is a good thing.
The shift has a lot to do with simple user demand, and it is the result of an evolved perspective towards the internet, its pervasiveness, function, harms and benefits. Today, more than ever, we understand that the internet and the sometimes sensitive digital assets we share/store on it are important and necessary parts of modern life.