Monday, May 12, 2008

Death in the Digital Age

Ever wonder what will happen to your "online assets" when you die? What will happen to your email, myspace, blog, and financial accounts when your time is up? What do you want to happen to them? This may be a morbid thought but I think it's worth some consideration.


Email

Today we communicate with more people than ever using email. Will every single person with whom you email be notified of your untimely passing? Probably not. So what happens when one of them writes you?

  • Should your account be closed so the writer gets a mail delivery error?
  • Should your account be given to a loved one so that messages can be appropriately responded to?
  • Perhaps an automated reply would work? "Thanks for writing but I'm dead now".

Myspace/Facebook/Spacebook/MyFace

Millions of people today belong to a social networking site. These sites contain a vast amount of personal information like videos, images, a personal profile and a long history of messages between you and your friends.

The site may describe you better than anything else in this world. It therefore may be the best way to memorialize you. So what should happen to it when you go?
  • Should the account be closed?
  • Should the account be made private so only current friends can view it?
  • Should the account be made public so anyone can view it?
  • Should the account be given to a loved one to maintain and possibly accept new friends on your behalf?
Who do you want to have access to it? Do you want your parents to have access? Do they have access now? How about your kids? How about your future grandkids? Or great grandkids?

Do you really want to share all those pictures? Is it selfish not to share them?

If myspace was around 100 years ago and your grandparent was on it would you want to browse their page?


Financial Accounts

I recently signed up for an ING Direct savings account. ING Direct is an online-only bank and I don't receive any paper statements. I didn't mentioned the account to anyone and it occurred to me that if I died no one would know it existed!

What accounts do you have? Will your family know the about them when you go? Will they know how to access them?


The End

It turns out that many people and businesses are thinking about and dealing with these issues. Google's mail service for example allows one to gain access to a deceased user's email account with a death certificate and power of attorney.

A company called assetlock.net provides a service the lets you organize and upload all of your information for your family to access after your passing.

Something we should now be considering when preparing for the end.


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