For most people, it can be uncomfortable to think about what happens to you after you bite the bullet, let alone what happens to your online accounts like Google.
Unfortunately, Google accounts contain a wealth of information, which hackers can use for their purposes even after you have passed. From intimate details about your life to financial information, there are numerous things that most people don't trust with anyone, especially those with no close friends or family members.
In this article, we'll discuss why you should ask Google to delete your account when you die and how to do it for yourself.
What Happens to Your Google Account When You Stop Using It?
Unless explicitly stated, Google has no way to determine whether an account owner has passed or not. However, Google does lump accounts of deceased people together with other inactive accounts, who may belong to those who are still living.
In the past, Google would automatically delete accounts of users who have not logged into it for a certain period. However, in 2021, Google updated its inactive account policy to only delete the contents of the inactive account, but not the account itself.
Unfortunately, while this can be helpful for users who may have just forgotten their passwords, this doesn't bode well for everyone.
Nowadays, to be considered an inactive account, a user should have no history of logging into the Google account for more than 24 months (or shorter, if you have changed the setting for it).
What Content Will Google Automatically Delete for Inactive Accounts?
Once Google tags your account as inactive, Google will delete data which includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Emails and Attachments on Gmail
- Photos on Google Photos
- Chat History on Google Chat
- Public and private videos on YouTube
- Documents from Google Drive
With this, you can be assured that most of your personal content will be deleted automatically.
Why Should You Tell Google to Delete Your Account When You Die?
Although content deletion may appear enough for some people, here are a few reasons why you should set your Google account for deletion before you die.
Unfortunately, not everyone who knows you will be aware right away that you have passed. For this reason, it can be dangerous if bad actors can access your personal email addresses and use it to solicit money or scam people. With your proven email address, contacts are more likely to fall into the schemes of scammers.
In addition, emails from your registered email address can trick companies into believing that loan applications, job applications, contracts, and other registrations are coming from you. With this, hackers can use your credit score, valid contact details, and credibility to do bad things.
Lock Access to Your 2FA-Enabled Online Accounts
With access to your Gmail account, hackers can use it to get into your other personal accounts online as well. Because email is a common method for two-factor authentication (2FA), hackers can receive one-time pins (OTP) or access codes for your digital wallets, online bank accounts, or other sensitive accounts.
By removing your Gmail account from the equation, you can rest assured that the only people who will be able to access your accounts are those who you have authorized. Alternatively, people will need to go through the appropriate legal channels before they can do so.
Erase Your Data from Google
Unfortunately, while you may no longer be around, Google can still use your Google account as a data point for the people associated with your profile. After all, as with all types of security, we are only as safe and secure as those who are around us.
If you want to give your friends or family members the freedom to decide how much of their personal data should be made online, you may want to consider deleting your Google account for good.
How to Set Automatic Account Deletion on Google
To set your account to automatically delete itself (and not just its contents) after you die, you have to access and enable your Google Inactive Account Manager. Then, you can direct it to delete your account when pass on. Here's how.
- Open your Google account settings.
- Click Data & Privacy.
- Under More options, select Make a plan for your digital legacy.
- On the Inactive Account Manager page, you can personalize your legacy settings for your Google account.
- Under Plan what happens to your data if you can't use your Google Account anymore, press Start.
- Choose an option between 3, 6, 12, or 18 months.
- Enter your alternative contact details, such as mobile number and email address.
- Press Next.
- If you want to add an Inactive Account Manager, click Add Person and follow the instructions provided on the screen.
- Should you want to add an AutoReply to make people aware when your account is inactive, select Set AutoReply.
- Select Next.
- Lastly, toggle on the button next to Yes, delete my inactive Google Account.
After enabling the setting, Google will delete your account automatically after a minimum of three months of inactivity. Alternatively, this period may be longer if you requested for a longer waiting period on the form above.
Before the permanent deletion of your Google account, Google will notify you through your alternative contact details or, if you have selected one, your Inactive Account Manager.
Once Google notifies your Inactive Account Manager of your account status, they will be given ample time to access your data before Google deletes it for good.
Keep Your Data Safe from Hackers by Deleting Your Google Account
Hackers are constantly looking for new ways to exploit data, especially for accounts of the deceased. For this reason, taking the time to set your Google account to permanent deletion can be an essential step to protect the ones you might leave behind.
While you're at it, you should also consider setting an inactive account manager for your Google account. And while protecting your Google account after you die is a good idea, so is using advanced protection programs for making sure you're safe and secure now.