Benjamin Franklin once wrote “… in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” We toil away at our lives for an unknown period of time. We prepare our wills in order to bequeath what little we have to our friends and families and then at some point we join the choir invisbile (or what ever your take on the afterlife is). So with that morbid depressing thought in mind I ask you what have you done about planning your digital life for after you’ve gone? You’ve accumulated vast amounts of usernames and passwords for forums, services, accounts and software. What happens to all of that data after you’ve gone? Have you planned at all for who gets it or what happens it? Do you want to leave it to someone or have it all deleted? These are questions we need to start asking ourselves.
For this article I decided to try to work out the value of my online life. Not easy to calculate but to give you an idea I use lastpass to save my username and password for every site I have to register on. I am currently registered on 330 websites varying from personal and work email accounts, banking services and tax services, antivirus software and other on-line/offline software, forums and social media services, flickr,  iTunes music and movies as well as gaming and entertainment sites like ticketmaster etc… The list goes on and on and many of the sites I dont use any more but I still have them. Considering some of the software/services I’ve purchased over the years have been very expensive (ranging from 5-100euro) we could conceivably assign a conservative value of 5000euro to my online life (dont forget the discounts applied to existing users, some of which are huge, for updating the software or services over those costs charged to new first time customers) . As I said I think this is very conservative valuation indeed but how and ever it gives you an idea of the potential value of things we take for granted and leave behind. So now that I’ve got your attention what have you done or what are you going to do about your own on-line life?
My current plan is to leave my master password for my lastpass.com account which would allow my family to get access to all my on-line life. Maybe, posthumously, they’ll leave some nice messages on my twitter account about how wonderful I was (I live in hope). But there are other options too. Google being Google has stepped into the breach to assist it’s product (sorry customer) with this issued. It has set up a service that will allow you to have your account deleted or pass on access details of your account to a loved one after a fixed period of inactivity. More info here: https://www.google.com/settings/u/0/account/inactive

Other options include: Hotmail lets relatives order a CD of all the messages in a deceased user’s account if they provide a death certificate and proof of power of attorney. Facebook will follow a family’s wishes to take down a deceased user’s profile or keep it in a “memorial state,” which removes features like status updates and lets only confirmed friends view the profile and post comments on it. Photo-storage site Flickr will keep an account up and mostly open to the public, but if a user had marked any photos as private, the site won’t let family or friends into the account to access them. Legacy locker allows you to store passwords and other account information to give to designated recipients after a user dies.Our on-line lives grow every day at an enourmous rate. Who will gets all of your data? Have you planned to pass on your digital life?

 

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