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Google’s Policy - an update

Google’s Policy in case of death of a gmail account user is known and published. There are detailed guidelines, which can be found in the Gmail help tab under ‘Accessing a deceased person’s mail’. (You can also find it here in my blog, under the technical guide). 

In cases of death of a YouTube user, however, Google’s policy used to be published but was later taken offline

If you search for the word Deceased on the YouTube Help tab, the message you get is ‘Your search - deceased - did not match any answers in YouTube Help

A similar message appears when you search on Blogger; the word Deceased simply does not exist.

I turned to Google’s International Spokespeople on 22/7/12, 23/7/12, 4/12/12 and 12/2/13 to ask if there was an all-round policy for all Google products, or does the policy change from one product to another? I also asked why only the gmail users policy was published. So far I have not received a response. 

I then turned to Paul Solomon, director of communications and Spokesmanship for Google Israel and Greece, who responded immediately. Turns out Google does have a single policy, which is relevant to all their products. It appears under their general Help tags, under Accounts. Mr. Solomon also wrote: 
‘Protecting our users' security and privacy is vital, and we're constantly working to earn their trust. That means putting our users first when we receive requests for their personal information, even when it's from a grieving family. It's important for our users to know that, even after they've passed away, we'll keep their information secure and respect their reasonable privacy interests. We won't provide the private information stored in a deceased user's Google Account to family members unless a U.S. court order compels us to do so.  …  I should also say that we’re continuing to explore solutions to this very difficult issue. ‘
I pointed out to him that the manner in which this policy is published could be misleading. A person searching for the word deceased under Gmail-Help can immediately see that Google has a policy on this matter, however if the same person searches on YouTube and his search yields nothing, such a person will most likely assume that Google does not have a policy for YouTube. He/she is very unlikely to assume that there is a policy, but it is stated elsewhere. I find it hard to believe that any surfer will understand that they should keep searching for the word again, only under a different help tab, and that the response that appears there will be valid for YouTube users. This is particularly not obvious if the person searching is in mourning and/or is not too familiar with searching the internet.
Mr. Solomon promised me he would forward my suggestion that Google’s policy would be included in the Help tab of each and every Google Product, to the relevant parties at Google international.

I will continue to update on this.

Thank you Perla Mitrani - Aviram for translating this post. 


  1. hi, thanks for this..for me, the statement is interesting as it refers to post-mortem privacy and interests of families, and Google's confusion about all that...this is the area I work in...However, the fact that Google has a uniform privacy policy for all their services is not new, it has been widely promoted/criticised...I agree that they could be clearer now, providing links on their individual services...

    1. Hi Edina,
      Thanks for your interest and comment.
      I noticed that their Youtube policy regarding access to the account of a deceased user went offline about a year ago, and I was puzzled by it.
      I've been trying to get their response for the past ten months or so.
      I hope now they will either display it in all their products and not just in gmail, or display it only in the general help tab via accounts.


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