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Who Will Get Access to Your Digital Life When You're Gone?


"The digital will is only now just beginning to become a topic of discussion."


Earlier this year, TheBlaze reported a story about a Nebraska mother wanting to access her deceased son's Facebook page and receiving pushback from the social media site. Even though Karen Williams already had her son's password to the site, once Facebook learned he had died, they changed it.

Although it is unlikely a 22-year-old like Williams' son would have a will of any sort, experiences like this are bringing the rights of family and friends to access a deceased loved one's digital life and the creation of "digital wills" into the spotlight.

Steve Clayton, on Microsoft's blog a couple months ago, wrote regarding the digital will:

Not to be overly morbid but unlike generations before us who left shoeboxes of photographs and physical heirlooms, our generation and those that follow will leave terabytes of data in the form of hard disks, mobile phones, data in the cloud on the services [...]. This presents some real challenges with data ownership but also opportunities to have a story live on.

Claire Connelly, who covers technology and social media, wrote that as much of our lives begin to set up shop in the digital world, if you want your friends and family to have access to certain files or social media pages, you may want to spell that out before you die.

"The easiest way to ensure your data goes where it ought to once you're gone is to set up a digital will and testament," Connelly wrote.

There are services cropping up online that would help ensure your digital assets go to intended recipients. The marketing and communications director of one of these firms called SureSafe gave a couple examples where appropriating the things you own online could be beneficial:

"Ninety per cent of my data may useless, but there's 10 per cent that is of value that I want to give to my wife, to my kids, to my business partner, my family," Andreas Jacob said.

For example, Mr. Jacob said his iTunes and Amazon accounts contain some prepaid money, which would be gone if his wife couldn't get access to his logon. "Frequent flyer miles is another good example," he said.

Brian Fiore-Silfvast wrote recently for the Urban Times that "we are witnessing the beginning of the digital inheritance." Pointing not only to information that has some sort of monetary value hosted on the Web, Fior-Silfvast notes that photos and other history that used to be maintained as a physical copy are increasingly being stored in a digital format now as well:

The digital will is only now just beginning to become a topic of discussion. Don’t leave the keys to your life and history to forever reside in an ambiguous digital space. The worst that could happen is that your digital archives could be forever lost to those that would like to see them.

Although it still may be difficult to access some digital information if it is not explicitly spelled out in a will, many sites do have policies for how to freeze or shut down accounts if a member has died. Connelly explains that Facebook and Twitter both require a death certificate or similar proof to shut down a user's page. Facebook has a feature that even allows the page to remain in an "in memory" state.

In fact, most of the the services maintaining a "digital inheritance" require some sort of proof of death as well before unleashing your information.

Would you consider setting up a digital will?

(H/T: Fox News)

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