In the footsteps of our digital legacy

In the footsteps of our digital legacy

Have you ever wondered what happens to your social media accounts if you die? What is your digital legacy? Facebook, Google, Instagram, Internet banking, cryptocurrencies, and other apps, passwords here and there.

It may sound morbid, but we can die at any moment. Many of us don’t have a will prepared, especially not at a young age. But still, lately, I’ve been playing with the idea of ​​what happens to my digital self and virtual property once I disappear from this physical reality. Tasting the phrase, digital legacy.

Our digital legacy has two significant areas.

The first is how new technology, such as artificial intelligence, can capture important life events, memories, stories interactively for future generations. Maybe for our future family members, we will never get to know.

The second, more common area is our digital lives—different accounts, files, folders, photos, and passwords. And how we can make these manageable for a person, we appoint to do so.

Let’s look at the latter first.

Take an inventory of your digital assets.

It is the essential starting point. If you don’t know exactly what and where you’re involved in, you can’t even have exact control over it.

You don’t have to describe every file name exactly, but rather make a list of the places where you store your most important information. Think in big categories.

You probably have personal files where you store photos, videos, and documents in the cloud or on your computer. Your email address or addresses can follow this. Then social media accounts – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and anything else where you are present. Then there are your financial accounts, including your bank accounts and even Revolut and PayPal.

Assign a digital heir to your accounts.

Even if you have a will, it certainly doesn’t include a list of all your online accounts and their passwords, as well as account-specific rules.

Some large tech companies offer unique opportunities. The list below is not exhaustive. I just want to give a few examples.

Facebook

On Facebook, under the general settings, you can find the memorialization settings. Here you can decide what happens to your account after you pass away. You can set up a legacy contact to take care of your account after you die. This person will be able to manage tribute posts on your profile, which includes deciding who can post and who can see posts—deleting posts, removing tags, requesting the removal of your account, responding to new friend requests, and even updating your profile picture and cover photo.

However, it is important to emphasize that the legacy contact cannot write a new post in your name and cannot view your messages. They can only manage posts that are made after your death.

Suppose you find it completely unnecessary to maintain a Facebook account after your death. In that case, I do not blame you. Instead of selecting a legacy contact, you can request the permanent deletion of your account. 

Interestingly, by 2098, it is said to have more dead profiles than alive ones. Facebook as a digital cemetery, oh well, it’s really very morbid. According to some estimates, there are already roughly 30 million dead profiles on Facebook today. 

Google

In our Google Account, you have the option to appoint a so-called Inactive Account Manager. An Inactive Account Manager is a way for users to share parts of their account data or notify someone if they’ve been inactive for a certain period of time.

In practice, it looks like Google is detecting that you haven’t been using your account for a while. They will check your recent sign-ins, your recent activity on the My Activity page, Gmail usage on your phone, and your Android sign-ins.

The person you specify will receive an email from Google with the subject and text you provided during setup. Google will add a footnote to this email explaining that you instructed them to send an email on your behalf after you no longer use your account. This footnote will include something like this:

John Doe (john.doe@gmail.com) instructed Google to send you this mail automatically after John stopped using his account.

Sincerely,

The Google Accounts Team

If you choose to share data with a trusted contact, the email will include a list of the data you have chosen to share, as well as a link to download the data. Example of such a message:

John Doe (john.doe@gmail.com) instructed Google to send you this mail automatically after John stopped using his account.

John Doe has given you access to the following account data:

Blogger

Drive

Mail

YouTube

Download John’s data here.

Sincerely,

The Google Accounts Team

Instagram

If you see an account on Instagram whose owner has passed away, you can request that the account be declared a memorial page. If you are a close relative of the deceased, you can request that the account be removed from Instagram.

Upon a valid request, the account will be converted to a memo page. They also try to prevent links from appearing on Instagram that could upset the deceased’s acquaintances and family members and protect the deceased’s personal data by making the account secure.

To turn the account into a memorial page, proof of death is required, such as a link to an obituary or newspaper article. However, account login information will not be provided.

It is also possible to remove the account, which verified and direct family members can request. When a request for removal is sent, proof must be provided that the deceased is a direct member of the family or, for example, the deceased’s birth certificate or death certificate, or a certificate under local law that the deceased and/or his or her legal representative are acting on his or her behalf.

Microsoft

At Microsoft, you do not need to contact them to report that someone has passed away. The account will automatically terminate after two (2) years of inactivity.

One more thing is essential to note. It might be necessary for the person you designated to possess your smartphone if they need to enter numbers or letter codes to successfully sign in to individual accounts. Or maybe two-step authentication is set up.

Make a plan for storing and accessing your passwords.

The easiest and most secure way for a person you designate to access your account could be through password management software or an application. You can set up emergency access and select an emergency contact, for example, on the Dashlane platform. You can specify a particular waiting time – say ten days. If your contact requests access and you do not deny it during this time, that person will have access to selected parts of the account.

There are new ‘digital legacy’ services that try to centralize such steps. One such example is GoodTrust. On this platform, you can provide everything in one place, from all your online accounts, through your will and insurance, to your last wish for your family. You can set up messages after your death that you will send to your loved ones later, you specify. Moreover, you can leave notes on where to find the security codes and keys for your cryptocurrencies.

And now, let’s look at the other area I mentioned. For example, you can use artificial intelligence to record yourself for the future.

A company called HereAfter.AI uses a so-called voicebot to allow us to communicate with our deceased loved ones through the Amazon Echo or Alexa phone app. 

The service works by conducting interviews with people and then turning the sound into an interactive experience. You can ask the voicebot questions about the childhood of a deceased loved one or school years, and the robot software will play the relevant chapters of the recording. Just like a live conversation. Of course, the key to any interview is to ask the right questions to capture the best stories.

While the secret of immortality is still to be unraveled, digital immortality is already guaranteed. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Scroll to Top