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Make sure your online accounts get deleted when you die

How to really protect your digital legacy.

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Not everyone wants to leave this earth with their online accounts being managed by relatives and next-of-kin, or just floating around on the Internet forever. If you're the kind of person who likes your privacy -- even in death -- you should probably make some plans to have all of your online and social media accounts nuked when you pass away.

Some services, such as Google and Facebook, let you set up your eventual account deletion before you get anywhere close to death. Other services will keep your account forever unless an immediate family member or the executor of your estate requests it be removed. Here's how to make sure all your loose ends are tied up, and that nobody ever gets hold of your top-secret/possibly incriminating emails and Twitter direct messages.

Google

Google's Inactive Account Manager lets you choose what happens to your account when it becomes inactive for a certain period of time. You can set up the Inactive Account Manager to delete your Google account and all products associated with that account, including Gmail, Blogger, AdSense, and YouTube.

To set this up, log in to your Google account and go to this page. You will need to provide Google with a phone number for alerts -- Google will send a message to this number before your account times out, so you know your account is about to become inactive. You will then need to select a timeout period (3 months, 6 months, 9 months, one year, 15 months, or 18 months).

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Then, under Optionally delete account, turn on Delete my account. Click Enable to turn the Inactive Account Manager on, and you're set. If you fail to log in to your account for the timeout period you selected, Google will delete your Google account and all data associated with it.

Facebook

Facebook is one of few online services that lets you set a legacy contact -- someone who can manage parts of your account and memorialize your page -- for when you die. Facebook also lets you delete your account when you die (though it doesn't use inactivity to determine that you've passed away).

To make sure your Facebook account is deleted when you die, open Facebook and go to Settings > Security > Legacy Contact. Check the box next to Account Deletion.

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

You will see a pop-up box asking if you really want to delete your account in the future. Click Delete After Death and then re-enter your Facebook password to save your changes. Your account will now be deleted when Facebook is notified of your death -- this means that if anybody tries to memorialize your page, it will be deleted instead of memorialized.

Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 2, 2016. It is being republished as part of CNET's series "Logging Out," CNET's look at death in the digital age.

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