There is a good reason the topic of ‘digital death’ has become so prevalent in the last year. Did you know that Facebook alone has nearly 2 million users that are deceased?
They’re gone but their profiles remain in cyberspace, available to hackers, spammers and all the while causing emotional pain to friends and family who have to see it regularly because the user never took the time or had the information to create a digital legacy, or leave instructions on what should be done with their digital selves.
When you stop and think about it, the reality is that most of us have virtually our entire lives somewhere on the Internet/computer. Our banking is done electronically, our written words and letters remain in emails and word documents.
Our friends and family connections are accomplished through a social networking site, and most of our photos and personal mementos are either on a photo website, or tucked neatly away on our computers.
It’s a depressing thought but do you know what would happen to all of your online data if you were to pass away?
What embarrassing little tidbits would be found by family members, or much more importantly, how would they gain access to important and much needed information?
What if they needed to reach close friends to inform them– and all of your close friends are in your contact list on your computer, or worse in your email account (by no means an easy task).
As of recent, most of these email account providers have established a ‘death’ policy, but do you know what your service provider requires?
What about your social media accounts? Blogger Noah Kravitz – was recently sued by his former employer over ownership of a Twitter account because Noah took his Twitter account with him when he left the company.
While it may be a depressing concept to consider, there are some key steps that can be taken to ensure that your online data remains safe and that you are remembered by your loved ones in the right way.
Create a list:
First things first, you have to know exactly where you have profiles set up, what sites you follow or are a member of, where you do your banking, investing and where you have personal information stored.
Making a list in a word document can be as easy as visiting the sites you have used in the past year, and copying that link to a document. This doc should contain all pertinent information about the site, your user ID, and password.
This document should be at the top of your priority list. A digital will is roughly the same as a Living Will or Trust document that contains all of your digital life possessions as well as the physical ones and can be added as an addendum to your existing will, or created separately.
There are places online that will help you do this, such as LegacyLocker.com, or find someone that can help you get organized in finding your digital life, and passing it on such as TheDigitalUndertakers.com.
It should be noted that in your digital will, you should not give passwords because those passwords could become obsolete or changed over time.
Use a service such Ziggur.org that stores all of your information in one place where family or friends can gain access using only one password.
Guardian or Executor:
Assigning someone to handle your digital life is crucial. This person should be someone that isn’t too close, so that they won’t hesitate deleting things upon your request out of emotional hardship, however, they should be someone trustworthy.
A legal representative is a good choice, or you can assign a guardian at Entrustet.com to help organize and follow through on your demands.
Power of Attorney:
This little document can mean a world of good to your digital self, should something happen unexpectedly. It allows another trusted person to act on your behalf in not only personal matters, but in business as well.
This legal document can be created and handled by legal representatives and should be given to someone who will not abuse these rights.
Establish your digital legacy:
Giving some thought to how you want to be remembered online is what creating a digital legacy is all about. What emails, profiles and posts do you want to have remain or deleted… and this can all be done prior to death, to leave a lasting legacy for those you love.
A newer website, comically titled “I Croak.com” allows you to create a digital legacy that you and your loved ones will be proud of – with their help, and in some instances you can appoint a guardian to keep information updated or to execute your wishes after death.
Postgeist.com also offers a similar service.
There is a site that recently came to life, LifeNaut.com and surprisingly they can create a virtual you, via an avatar of you, so that your family and friends can have a living diary of your personality, characteristics and personal messages you choose to leave behind.
They create two different aspects of you – a mindfile and biofile. These files contain in-depth information about who you are and what makes you tick.
See LifeNaut for further information, because eventually, a virtual you could actually become a robot if you so choose!
Blogs and Websites:
These are priceless gems to those who treasure you and would want a part of you to remain. Make sure that you consider their stance after you are gone, and leave family and friends with decisions whether to continue them, or remove them.
But by all means, leave a roadmap!
It is vital that you know the Death Policy of your email service providers and social networking sites so that you may properly determine who exactly has access to your personal information after you pass away.
Some sites need proof of death, and will then delete your account, leaving your family with nothing, and some, such as Facebook will ‘memorialize’ your profile at your family’s request. Hotmail will actually send a copy of all of your email messages and contact list to your family before closing the account at their request…begs the question, what emails would you prefer to keep out of your mother’s hands?
These should be investigated by your guardian, executor or yourself and be listed prior to death.
Major clean up:
This is something that should be done on a regular basis. Going in to email accounts and deleting contacts you no longer need, emails that are questionable or shouldn’t fall onto the wrong eyes – profiles from dating sites that are outdated – all should be deleted and cleared out.
Any information that you no longer use should be thrown into the trashcan. Not only are servers using precious energy storing all of this stuff – it will be easier on your family to access information that is needed quickly – without having to swim through an ocean of data.
Taking your digital life and legacy seriously can create immense peace of mind for the loved ones you leave behind. As well as leave a lasting impression of who you were, and what your life entailed. As you are cleaning up your digital self, keep this in mind and you should have peace of mind as well, that your family will be rewarded with the ease of access to your virtual life and be proud of who you were.