Buy life insurance. Save for retirement. Organize the sock drawer.
So many nagging things to do.
Add to the list: Plan for the afterlife with a Google will.
No, really. Now that we've all amassed reams of digital data floating out there somewhere beyond our control, Google's got a solution – “inactive account manager,” aka, your Google death plan.
Google's announcement of its newfound end-of-life compassion sounded more saccharine than a cemetery ad.
“We hope that this new feature will enable you to plan your digital afterlife – in a way that protects your privacy and security – and make life easier for your loved ones after you're gone,” Google Product Manager Andreas Tuerk wrote in a post about the change.
Personally, I was hoping for an afterlife free from the burden of passwords and spam.
Google's got other plans, and they're really quite simple. If you use one of Google's services, such as Gmail, Picasa or YouTube, you tell it what to do with your data once your account has been inactive for, say, three to 12 months. You can have it automatically deleted or passed on to “trusted contacts.”
Don't worry, it will check with you via text message to make sure you're really dead before it hands over all your old email, photographs and Google+ updates.
The best part is that Google assumes that if you haven't been using its products for a few months, you must be dead, rather than just having moved on to better technology or found peaceful bliss outside the online world.
There may be people with treasure troves of interesting emails to sort through once they're dead. But mine? Judging by the last month, you'll find little more than the mundane about taxes and work. Remember when email was a place where heartfelt messages landed and long-lost friends reunited? My email these days is chock full of news that the last season of “Mad Men” is now streaming on Netflix and that bok choy was “just a buck a pound” at the co-op.
Plenty there to save for posterity.
Regardless of the banality of email these days, I actually do like the idea of having some control over what happens to all this stuff once I'm gone. I just wish we could get more control over all that other data Google's got – like about that strange rash you Googled or the number of cat videos you've actually watched.
But that's the kind of stuff that makes us valuable commodities that can be bought and sold to advertisers in the time it takes to pull up a website. Why would they let us weigh in on decisions about that?
There is a solution: Simply opt out. But you might as well suggest someone take a vow of silence for six months.
Our lives have become so entrenched in the digital realm, it's nearly impossible to extricate ourselves from the Web. There's hardly anything you can sign up for these days that doesn't require a password and agreeing in blood to share your email, phone number and all the digital crumbs you spill all over the Internet.
In fact, I've used Google and Gmail more than two dozen times since starting this column. It's a love-hate relationship. As in, I love to hate it, but I just keep coming back.
Guess they've got me 'til “death do us part.”