Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Your Online World After Your Death

Re-published with permission from TechnologyNomad.com

In today's online World thinking about what happens to one's online accounts, which to many is a big chunk of their World, after their death might be morbid. Perhaps even a tad superstitious and pessimistic. Unfortunately, it's a necessary evil.

Now I wanted to write about the topic, but after doing a bit of research (as I always do for an article) revealed that blog site MakeUseOf covered it, and covered it quite well. According to the article, email services like Hotmail and Gmail allow next of kin to access accounts of deceased individuals as long as the family can provide proof of death. My guess is that anonymous accounts, where incomplete or incorrect information is provided, mean that the accounts get locked over time due to lack of usage. Whereas other services, like MySpace, will simply delete the account upon request. The infamous Facebook will also delete an account if asked, but they also go out of their way and turn the user's page into a memorial one, if the family so wishes. I highly recommend reading the MakeUseOf article as it covers quite a bit.

Another source revealed by a quick search on the topic is TIME. The article covers a perspective that might be of interest to many. Specifically, not wanting your relatives & loved ones in on your digital content. One paragraph from the TIME article (on the 2nd page) puts the whole thing in perspective:
In 2005, relatives of a Marine killed in Iraq requested access to his e‑mail account so they could make a scrapbook. When a judge sided with the family, Yahoo! copied the messages to a CD instead of turning over the account's password. Hotmail now allows family members to order a CD as long as they provide proof that they have power of attorney and a death certificate. Gmail requires the same paperwork, plus a copy of an e‑mail the deceased sent to the petitioner.

If you have nothing to hide, don't mind the contents of your online/digital world being shared or simply don't think that the info. you house in your online accounts will tarnish your legacy, then don't fret. Otherwise, I strongly recommend you make other plans or take up one of the "death management firms" linked in the TIME article. Better yet, if it's that big of a concern, talk to your lawyer about squeezing it in your will.

Personally, I don't have anything to hide (any more). But I'm sure many would rather default on their accounts (due to lack of usage) and have their accounts simply deleted instead of handing over the keys like that. For those, I suggest something like Death Switch.

OK, now I'm curious. How do YOU plan to take care of your online accounts in case of your death? I'm sure there are creative ways and other tools out there. I'm especially interested in FREE ones. Share what you got in the comments.  ▣

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