The New York Times article “Cyberspace When You’re Dead” describes the personal lives of several talented folks who spent much time adored by others online but whose families felt infringed upon. The families wanted to control whatever legacy the person who died had achieved. It’s not unlike the children of a movie star who want to control the family legacy and any subsequent income.
But what of death then? Should your family and friends erase your virtual life upon your death? Ask yourself if you really want your family to take charge and erase that other life you achieved online. On the other hand, do you even want them to know of it?
Christina Hernandez Sherwood’s “Death and the Internet: How your online identity can live on after death” (http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/pure-genius/death-and-the-internet-how-your-online-identity-can-live-on-after-death/2119) describes a program called Legacy Locker. ‘Legacy Locker is a safe, secure repository for your vital digital property that lets you grant access to online assets for friends and loved ones in the event of loss, death, or disability.’ (http://legacylocker.com/)
It claims “around 10,000” people have signed up for its digital-estate-management service. Wikipedia says its program competitors include DataInherit, a service of DSwiss, “the Swiss bank for information assets” (you can even update your digital-legacy data via its iPhone app), and Entrustet, of Madison, Wisconsin. Last May these three firms sponsored Digital Death Day, an event tacked on to an annual online-identity conference near San Francisco.
Sherwood also discusses the website Deathswitch that allows users to store encrypted emails to be sent out at the time of their death. This is determined by the user entering a password at preset intervals. If the password is not entered after several prompts, the emails are sent out to the indicated email recipients. (http://www.deathswitch.com/).
There’s an app or a web company for everything. But internet companies also have a way of coming and going. Sherwood references ‘My Web Will’ as a resource but when I took a trip to http://www.mywebwill.com/ I heard a voice from beyond the grave
We are sorry to announce that the service My Web Will has been permanently closed as of November 2nd 2011.
Wishing you all the best and a happy digital life!
//The My Web Will Team.”
Ah. A 404 with an attitude.
So you can choose 1) to end your online presence by euthanizing your accounts followed by a final post saying good-bye, 2) to forever separate your online life from your relatives and live forever in the life you chose, or 3) to tell your family how to access your accounts and shut down your internet life.