While not a particularly cheerful topic to think about, there is a question that we should all address, and that is: What will happen to our online lives when we die? When you think about it, we create more digital records than physical ones, and often times they are held by service providers who won’t hand them over to a bereaved next of kin without a fight, if they even hand them over at all.
An article on the BBC site today titled Death in the digital age: Are you prepared? put forward some helpful recommendations such as making all of your login credentials for various services available in a file left with your attorney. But the author of the article, Joe Miller, acknowledges that in an age where you are encouraged to change passwords regularly, this would be hard to keep current. He also concedes to the added risk of that file being hacked or stolen, giving the thief access to all sorts of your personal information while you are still alive.
Archiving your online activities is a service provided by a number of different web operators, but again, would you want all of this information divulged in the event of your death? It could be reasonably argued that some things are best taken to the grave. For example if your Facebook account was handed over in its entirety, your loved ones may find evidence of an extra-marital affair, or your email and financial records might reveal that you had a serious online-gambling addiction – things that are no longer of any consequence, but might distress those left behind.
This is where having control of all your data yourself holds a huge advantage over simply being able to leave a set of keys to all of your online accounts. By keeping a local copy of the personal content from your social network accounts, you have taken the first step, which is owning your whole story. Then you can go about organising collections of the parts you want to pass on to certain people, thus ensuring that you live on through your digital legacy in the way that you’d want to be remembered by those who matter to you the most.