I’ve written about life insurance, medical aid and other financial matters a number of times on my blog. I’ve also tried my best to incorporate technology related material. This is a way of sharing two of my passions with all of you. I don’t often get the opportunity to write something where I take a shot at combining the two passions together into one post, but that changes today.
I have been commissioned to write a review on the topic of digital life after death. Hippo.co.za, our favourite insurance comparison engine, recently published an article entitled “Facebook, Death and Grieving” and they asked me to spend some time building upon it. Before you read more here, I’d recommend that you read their post first.
Right, now that we’re in the right frame of mind, I can take you forwards on a little journey with me, where I share my thoughts and opinions on the topic of digital life after death. I’m no expert in this regard, but it’s a topic that I find very interesting and one which I’ve discussed a number of times with family, friends and colleagues.
I like to think that everyone has somewhat of a footprint on the internet, be that a social footprint, perhaps a footprint from some press, maybe a blog; whatever it might be, there’s a good chance you have a footprint of some kind. What I mean by a footprint is that there will be something about you on the internet. And if it’s not a footprint, you’ll surely have an account somewhere with valuable information, be that an email account, an account for a specific online service, or whatever it might be. Hiding from the internet in this day and age is near impossible.
A bit of a morbid topic I suppose, but do you know someone who has passed away and their Facebook account remains? Each year their birthday comes around and you find yourself being prompted to write to them? What about friend suggestions? Facebook is continually trying to connect us all; perhaps a friend request has been suggested with a person who is no longer with us! It’s really quite sad and one wonders what the best way to deal with this is. I’m focusing on Facebook for the time being because I believe this is what most people will be able to relate to. Facebook does provide people with some options though—there’s a “memorialised” feature or a legacy contact. These are two ways for someone to take care of your account once you are no longer around to do so yourself.
My concerns aren’t around social media though; my concerns come in around accounts that hold important information—the likes of email, document storage, financial trackers and so forth. These are the sorts of accounts that hold important information, information that may be crucial for your loved ones who would otherwise have no idea. I have accounts that hold important information and accounts with funds in them (affiliate accounts, Bitcoin, etc) and, if I haven’t put measures in place for my wife to access these accounts and something happens to me (heaven forbid), there is a good chance she’ll never know about them and may forego something important.
Just take a moment to think on this.
When we pass away, we have things such as wills, trusts, estates and the like that are managed by a bank or attorney. These are things that we are aware of because of years of having them in place; they’re engrained into our world. But what we don’t have, because the internet as we know it is relatively new, is measures in place to take care of these sorts of things that aren’t common practice.
With that being said, the concept of digital life after death isn’t new, or at least it shouldn’t be. A lot of articles were published pre 2010 when social networks started to become so popular. Legacy Locker (aka PasswordBox) is a service that received a lot of publicity on the likes of the Wall Street Journal and Forbes. To me it’s not the ultimate solution, but it’s a step in the right direction. Along with Legacy Locker there are a number of other options that were written about on Mashable several years ago. In 2010 a local legal practice published an article on the topic.
It goes without saying that most of us really aren’t in a position to say that we’ve taken care of this. We may have spoken about it, we may have made a note to do something, but how many people have actually acted on it? How many people truly know how to act on it and what the best option is? Now might be the time to take a few moments to think about this, jot down some passwords, and store them in a safe place—may I recommend somewhere offline perhaps ;) or, at least with a service that grants access to another party.
I’d be really interested to hear your opinion on this topic of digital life after death. Have you put provisions in place to deal with this sort of situation?