The Internet is forever and almost everyone has a digital footprint, whether it be an email account or a type of social media account. The information in these accounts can easily outlast a person’s lifespan, and because it can’t be deleted, the data becomes untouched and remain infinitely. You can see why data on the internet is going at an exponential rate. Data held by all the big online storage and service companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook equates to at least 1,300 petabytes between them. That is 1.3 million terabytes (one terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes). And that figure excludes data from other big providers like Dropbox, Barracuda and SugarSync, and also data from servers in industry and academia. A chunk of this data could be from users that do not have the capacity to access their information anymore. In this article, we will show you how to completely delete your Google web presence after you pass away. Or, if you don’t want to delete your Google account there’s an option to pass accounts on to other people, so they can memorialise your profiles or access important documents you’ve filed digitally.
How to set Google to delete everything
If you’re sure you want Google to forget everything about you when you die, you can set it to delete not only your old emails, Google drive and photos but also its library of personal information about you. Google learns about you from your use of Google Maps, searching on Google and any use of Google products and this information will also be removed.
First, go to myaccount.google.com. and login if you are not already. Here you will get an overview of your Google Account, giving you access to things like privacy settings and a view of how much storage you’re using in Google Documents.
Select Data & personalization tab on the left side of the page and then scroll down to a section called Download, delete, or make a plan for your data and click on Make a plan for your account.
You’ll be taken to a page called Inactive Account Manager where you can make a plan for your Google Account if you pass away or stop using Google. Since Google can’t actually know when you have passed away you will have an option to delete your account when it hasn’t been used for a certain period of time.
Click Start on this page to begin the wizard where you will then set your time frame of how long a period of time you want to wait before Google follows your instructions on what to do next. This timeframe can be as short as three months of inactivity, or as long as 18 months. Google will let you know between one month or three months in advance (depending on the timeframe you’ve selected) that the next steps are being taken soon, so you have time to stop the deletion in case you’re still alive and just not logging in to your Google accounts.
This is also where you’ll input email addresses and a phone number to reach you in this “I’m still alive” scenario. A phone number is required in order to advance to the next parts of the page and once it’s in, you’ll be able to click Next.
You’ll next be prompted if you want to notify anyone if your Google Account becomes inactive. This is an important step if you do not want to delete your account and you would like to pass on all of your info to somebody else. You may want to make sure your Google photos will get to certain people when you pass on, or you want your spouse to have access to your Google Drive so they can access particular documents.
On this page, you can also set an optional personal message to the person you’re passing these digital parts of you to. It can be a chance to say one last thing to this person, or a chance to make sure they have other important information from you other than the Google accounts, like social media passwords if you want accounts to be memorialized or continued.
Whether you decide to delete your data or not, these people you share your data with will have three months to download whatever you’ve shared, and that’s it. That again keeps some personal information and photos secure once you’re gone and also allows your account to be archived when it’s not deleted.
Next. You’ll now reach the section “Decide if your inactive Google Account should be deleted.”
The page explains a bit of what deletion means, like that deleting your accounts will eliminate content you’ve made like Google+ posts, blogs and YouTube videos. This won’t delete social media profiles you’ve made with your Gmail address, but it will make logging into them inaccessible unless you have a backup email set up.
You can set the Yes, delete my inactive Google Account switch to on or off at this point. Turn it on if you want everything to delete when you go. Then click Review Plan to make sure you’re comfortable with all of the decisions you’ve just made and Confirm Plan if you are. If you want to change anything, just click on that section on the Review Plan page and you’ll get to go back and edit it.
Before you hit Confirm Plan, you can sign up for notifications that you have this plan turned on. That can help you remember to check your Google Accounts and keep your account active while you’re alive, so if you need those kinds of reminders, keep that box checked.
The ultimate fate of your Google Account and your social media profiles is up to you while you’re still in the land of the living. It’s a part of you that can live on long without you. Make sure it lives on the way you want it to by following our steps above, so your digital legacy can be precisely what you want it to be.