Ask and it will be given to you, says the Bible.
Users must have asked enough as Google has provided an answer.
Now you can decide how your Google Accounts are to be handled if you’ve left them inactive for any reason. Maybe you no longer use Picasa to store your photos. Or perhaps you’ve gotten very ill or are incapacitated. There’s also the inevitability of death too.
With Google’s Inactive Account Manager (or IAM, which even Google says it isn’t a great name), you define your inactive, or timeout, period. How long after your last sign-in does the timer start? Timeout options are three, six, nine, or twelve months. Then IAM will send you text or e-mail alerts toward the end of the timeout period before the inactive period starts.
IAM also permits you to name as many as 10 people as your “trusted contact” and Google will also notify them your account is no longer being used. You can also give your trusted contact access to your data. This doesn’t mean your trusted contact can start sending e-mail as you. It does not provide them with your passwords, just your data. This addresses concerns some have regarding a user’s privacy.
Another choice is to instruct Google to automatically delete your data when your specified inactive period is reached.
IAM directions cover your personal accounts such as Gmail, Contacts, Circles, Drive, Google+ Profiles, Pages, Picasa, Google Voice and YouTube. It doesn’t apply to Google Apps accounts.
You can find IAM on your Google Account setting page. There’s a nice “how to” walk through here.
This move by Google doesn’t resolve all of the issues with the important planning needed for how your digital property is to be handled if you are incapacitated or die, but it is a welcome step in the right direction.
For more information on Google’s Inactive Account Manager, see Google’s announcement on the Data Liberation Blog.