Privacy in today’s technology world is a precious commodity. With the onslaught of hackers, spammers, scam artists and other invasions of our privacy, sometimes leading to identity theft, can be a nightmare.
New devices and software are being developed constantly in an effort to protect our privacy against criminals, and even people we know whom we don’t wish to share certain parts of our personal lives with.
It only makes sense, because a safe or a safety deposit box is becoming a thing of the past because most of our lives are digital, and on our computers in some capacity.
Our computers contain hundreds, sometimes even thousands of emails that are stored on remote servers somewhere out in cyberspace, and mostly on your computer.
We have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and most of us take advantage of places like Flickr or Google Plus or Picasso – to store our legacy of family and vacation photos with friends and family.
Not only the above entertainment commodities that are stored on our hard drives and in cyberspace, but many of us are working from home, and run a business from our computers.
When you add up all of the data that is stored on our individual computers, the megabytes are incomprehensible.
So, what happens to our online data after we die? What would you like to see happen? John Romano and Evan Carroll of The Digital Beyond, discuss this issue in detail, and introduce us to decisions that should be considered, now.
On the website, The Digital Beyond, there are some examples of digital death without a digital will…. one, a woman named Leslie, who died in 2006 – and was a very popular blogger and had a very large online following. After her death, the family decided to remove the blog, however, her community of readers requested that her work remain archived on the Internet for their access, trying to hold onto her content that had helped so many people.
The family decided to have it removed – but, what would Leslie have wanted? Nobody knew – and that decision to cut off the hundreds, perhaps thousands of readers that had become so accustomed and attached to those many pages was removed without further notice.
In Romano and Carrols book, Your Digital Afterlife, they describe the remains of your digital life, what to do about it and what it takes to create a digital will.
Their advice, “It’s very possible that the person who’s handling your estate may not be the person who has the technical understanding to take care of your digital things,” Romano says. “And there needs to be an important distinction there.”
This advice should be heeded, and naming a digital executor should be someone who is well thought about. You certainly don’t want Mom or Dad who are not incredibly computer savvy handing your digital remains.
It has been suggested by these two Digital Death experts, that creating an online inventory of your online accounts should be done as soon as you can.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, but doing a list online, in Word or another word processing program will allow links to the sites, and can be easily cut and pasted to the document.
Listing all of your passwords and user ID’s could be left to the digital will, however, at least family members will know what data is yours, what you want deleted and what you wish to leave, without having to search high and low for traces of your digital self.
Be warned, many services do not transfer accounts, or allow access, such as Yahoo Mail. A father of an Iraq soldier tried to access his deceased son’s email account and in order to do so, had to take Yahoo to court to gain access.
You want to be sure to list in that digital will, all of your access information, back up information as well as links so that the person you choose to handle your digital estate will be successful in following your requests.
Carroll: “There’s no one way that all of these service providers act. So Yahoo has their policy, Facebook has their policy, Twitter has their policy and none of the policies are the same — which makes it really confusing for the average person to figure all of this out.”
Talk to your family:
Talk to your family and friends, children, or whomever you feel might want to access your digital life. Let them know that you’ve selected a digital executor and that your instructions, information and access can be gained through this person.
Just as many of us love going through loved ones personal notes, letters and photographs to remember them, so will your family want to read your blogs, posts and other memorabilia after you’ve gone so that they can feel close and remember how incredible you were….
Think about these things as you assemble your digital estate, and discuss what might be soothing or enjoyable to family members to be able to read or access after your passing. Make a decision which things to leave, what to print, and what to delete.
Remember when creating your digital will, that accounts such as PayPal, and your bank information will need specific instructions, and remember that one gains access to the other. Be sure that the funds you leave are allocated to specific people so that someone you don’t want to have access cannot get to it. Be specific.
Thinking about these things as you go through your daily life in your online world, will allow you to start taking inventory, and deleting unwanted things. Take some time to Google yourself, and find out what is actually out there that you had forgotten about.
What you don’t need or access any longer, delete. Clear out old accounts and delete profiles from places you no longer visit. This will make life much easier on the loved ones you leave behind, and will make your online estate, much easier to manage.
Note from Editor: This was a guest post.