Protecting your Digital Legacy
It’s a rare person who doesn’t have at least one online account requiring a password or user name. Young and old, we all seem to be logging in to Facebook, Twitter, PayPal, LinkedIn, and eBay, or sites for email, blogging, bill paying, photo sharing, or banking. It isn’t unusual for an individual to have dozens of accounts and, quite possibly, no hard-copy backups as more data is stored online rather than on a local hard drive.
Chances are, you don’t know your loved-one’s passwords and user names for all of these websites. If that person were to pass on, how would you retrieve their digital assets, such as important emails, photos, videos, financial information, and other data? Would all those photos that were uploaded and never printed out just disappear because you didn’t have a means to retrieve them?
Keeping Digital Assets Private
Concerns about privacy issues have made it extremely difficult for a person without the right information to get someone else’s data. That’s a good thing, unless the data you need or want belonged to a deceased family member. Although eventually some sites like Google, Facebook, and MySpace may agree to a common policy for dealing with a user’s data after death, there’s no telling what roadblocks you may run into before that ever happens.
Anyone who has an online presence—an account with a login and/or password—should be sure that information is in trustworthy hands so the data can be retrieved by his or her heirs. Whether it’s a spouse, an attorney, or an online service, someone must know how to access these accounts. Without that knowledge, the deceased person’s heirs may have to present a death certificate or get a court order to retrieve important data or, in some cases, to shut down an open account.
The newest twist in protecting your digital legacy is to include these assets when planning your estate or writing your will. It may be worthwhile discussing this option with your attorney.
Using Digital Legacy Services
Secure online services are a relatively new option for keeping track of your web-based data and arranging for it to be passed on to your heirs. Several are now available, allowing you to assign any digital asset to any beneficiary, knowing that “your content will end up in the right hands.”
When you address the issue of digital assets with your loved ones, remember: like the combination to a safe, the keys to our online accounts should be kept in a secure—and known—place.