Google announced that it has changed policies for free accounts. Google Photos, Docs, Sheets, and other Google tool users needs to know how these policies are changing and what they can do now to protect their photos, data, and documents. Left unprotected, these digital assets could be lost permanently, especially concerning for those who understand the importance of digital estate planning.
Right now, Google Photos lets users store an unlimited number of images and HD video, as long as they are under 16 megapixels. This ends on June 1, 2021, when there will be a limit of 15 gigabytes of free storage offered to anyone with a free Google account.
While Google says it will take the average user as long as three years to reach this 15 gigabyte limit, we’re skeptical, since the limit is not just about photos and videos.
Anyone using the free version of Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms and Jamboard files needs to be aware that all of these files will be counted toward the storage total. These tend to be small files, but anyone who even semi-uses Google Photos will find they’ve run out of space fast.
Here’s the problem: when you click on the TOSA agreement—which we all do, without thinking—until it’s time to access a document. What would you do if all of your Google Photos suddenly disappeared, along with the Sheets and Docs you and your co-workers have been using for the last nine months?
With Google changing its photo policies, the opportunity to lose precious family memories is even greater. Their new policy of limited storage space, new fees and auto-deletion make it ripe for family photos, document scans and videos to evaporate both while living and after death.
The problem for heirs and estate planners gets more complicated with the announcement of these new rules about digital property. Even if the decedent has done proper digital estate planning, with directives naming the person(s) who they expressly give permission to access and download their data, what happens if the platform has deleted the content already?
Account holders will have to be more diligent about maintaining their storage size. Users will need to be diligent about regularly deleting duplicate or unwanted files to free up space and ensure only the desired ones will remain.
But There’s More
Google announced that the data that Google gathers from searches, including Maps and YouTube, will be automatically deleted every 18 months on newly formed Google accounts. Existing accounts will need to proactively turn on this feature.
For now, existing users have the option to maintain their data, but don’t be surprised if that changes in the future. If there’s anything digital users have come to expect, it’s that every so often, platforms like Google and Apple feel entirely free to change everything, regardless of how comfortable users may be with their devices, operating systems, widgets, etc.
Users and their advisors need to recognize that digital assets are not owned by the users, but by the platforms they use. Another reason why managing digital assets needs to be done proactively, before the owner is unable to do so for themselves. That’s where DCS comes in.
At DCS, we help professional advisors, and their clients avoid losing their digital assets by providing a clear process and secure platform for handling online account and digital assets. We provide clear and detailed organization of online accounts and digital property. Whether you are a consumer seeing to protect your digital assets or a professional responsible for helping your clients secure all their assets, we can help.