This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog.
Given the virtually unlimited amount of space that Google allots its Gmail users, more and more people are treating their account as a sort of digital storage service. When they're not deleted, most photos, e-mails and documents are either archived or left in the inbox -- a practice which begs the question: what will happen to your data after you, for whatever reason, stop using Google?
Who gets it when you are no longer willing or capable of utilizing Google's services yourself?
The answer: anyone with a phone number.
Google recently announced the "Inactive Account Manager" option. It's a way for people to pass along any virtual materials they may have on Google+, YouTube, Google Drive and Gmail to a trusted family member or friend. As long as they have a valid phone number -- for verification purposes -- you can make your documents available to that person (via download) for three months.
You can also instruct Google to straight up delete your account.
HOW IT WORKS
It's really very simple.
The "Inactive Account Manager" can be accessed from the "Accounts" page. Here users are prompted to enter their mobile number in order to receive a deactivation message. You can choose to deactivate after 3, 6, 9 or 12 months of account inactivity, at which point Google will consider you "dead".
The next section gives you the option of picking up to 10 people whom you'd like to inherit your files and documents. Once you complete this allocation process, you're done -- your friends and/or family will be notified about your account inactivity and will be granted permission to download your data.
Again, if you don't want to pass anything along, you can simply switch the "Optionally delete account" toggle button to "Yes".
Easy-peazy. Just don't forget to click the blue "Enable" box when you're done.
Now go relax.