back to article What happens to your online accounts when you die?

What happens to the numerous user logins you've accumulated after you die or become too infirm to manipulate a keyboard? Some people have a plan, the digital equivalent of living will, or have chosen "family" option in a password management package such as LastPass or have entrusted a book of passwords to a family member. But …

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        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: My carefully curated online presence

          "just how significant is it that they don't hear of your death anyway?"

          A good friend of ours died a couple of years ago. We didn't find out until one of her daughters wrote to us after they received our card the following Christmas. Had we known we'd certainly have gone over to Belfast for the funeral. So, yes, it can matter.

          1. GIRZiM Bronze badge

            Re: My carefully curated online presence

            @Doctor Syntax

            Having, in the not so distant Past, been through some bereavement situations myself, it's not that I don't appreciate what you're saying and I am truly not trying to be disrespectful, but, unless it was a timing thing and, all else being equal, under normal circumstances you'd have spoken after Christmas as part of being in frequent contact with them, if the only contact you had with them worth speaking of was a Christmas card then really...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My carefully curated online presence

        With the death of a close relative it was very easy informing people. Just told (in person) a few of their very active on social media friends (I'm not one for social media) and the news spread like wildfire, ditto for funeral date / location etc. Only people I had to tell were a few close friends and relatives who (like me) were not into social media.

        A lot easier than spreading death news was years ago, which was lots of phone calls (& letters or personal visit in the scenario of people with no phone)

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: My carefully curated online presence

        "Strictly, I don't think you have any possessions once you're dead."

        You have an estate to be sorted out by your executor so I suppose the contents count as possessions. It's a sobering thought that a really complex estate could have a longer existence after the deceased death than it did before. Perhaps I should occupy my remaining years in trying to set that up.....

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: My carefully curated online presence

      Your family might GAF if accounts are used to steal someone's ID or as part of a Russian retweet campaign in the next elections.

      When somebody dies, the estate should be able to download any data attached to the accounts. Now that GDPR has come along this is easier.

      Next, depending on the nature of the account it could be deleted (e.g. online shopping) or left up for a period of time before being removed (e.g. social network). After deletion, the account ID shouldn't be reusable to prevent ID theft.

      This is where the Internet clashes with the real world because how does an estate prove that it should have the rights to twinkletoes@hotmail.com whose address is down as Buckingham Palace.

      1. GIRZiM Bronze badge

        Re: My carefully curated online presence

        @Dan 55

        The fuss being made about people's 'online presence'? I hate to use the term 'snowflake' (and generally don't) but seriously, in this instance, it's just first world problems for those with nothing better to worry about than what the neighbours will think of their hairdo.

        The rest of your points, fine, although see my reply to Neil: this isn't a technology problem but simply the same problem that has always existed and the solution is the same as it has ever been: make sure that the necessary information will be made available to those who need it when the time comes - use a solicitor/lawyer and keep their records up to date.

        But as for

        > Your family might GAF if accounts are used to steal someone's ID or as part of a Russian retweet campaign in the next elections.

        Talk about trying to shoehorn in some pointless prejudice. What next? Nobody had my R.S.P.C.A. account password and the E.U. destroyed some dogs as a result?

        Russia has sweet FA to do with any of this but even if it did, if it really wants to steal my ID, it isn't going to wait until I'm dead.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: My carefully curated online presence

          >The fuss being made about people's 'online presence'?

          Imagine if Ansel Adam's photos were all deleted once his Google Pixel account closed, or if Dickens had published in the form of a blog, or the Goon show was a podcast - and all were deleted because the service provider 'owned' them ?

          I suppose the solution is for all of us to incorporate and have our steam accounts own by YAAC Ltd

          1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: My carefully curated online presence

            "Imagine if Ansel Adam's photos were all deleted once his Google Pixel account closed, or if Dickens had published in the form of a blog, or the Goon show was a podcast - and all were deleted because the service provider 'owned' them ?"

            Or if the BBC deleted the Dr. Who tapes because they wanted to reuse them?

            1. Aqua Marina

              Re: My carefully curated online presence

              “Or if the BBC deleted the Dr. Who tapes because they wanted to reuse them?”

              Or if Warner Brothers lost the Babylon 5 HD master tapes because they just didn’t care!

          2. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: My carefully curated online presence

            Imagine if Ansel Adam's photos were all deleted once his Google Pixel account closed, or if Dickens had published in the form of a blog, or the Goon show was a podcast - and all were deleted because the service provider 'owned' them ?

            I think Rick Dickinson's Flickr albums should be kept publicly readable for all, but eventually the Pro subscription is going to run out.

        2. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: My carefully curated online presence

          The whole point of this is that many online companies have no death procedure so you can't do anything about it. So your choices are limited to 'nothing'.

          Secondly, I was pulling examples out of a hat but it happens. Twitter accounts which only occasionally post about football and recipes go dormant for a couple of years then suddenly start banging on several times a day about Brexit and only Brexit. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what happened there.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm dead - don't GAF about my 'carefully curated online presence.'

      A colleague passed away in 2011. Some miscreants got hold of his username/password for Skype some time ago and sent several spam messages (with a bit.ly shortened URL, if I recall) from his account.

      It was sort of amusing, since one the senior managers that worked together with him got very upset about receiving a message from a colleague that died years ago, and asked for our Evil IT Team for support. We suggested him to get his computer exorcised. That's what our deceased friend, a well-known prankster, would have wanted.

    3. Slinfold

      Re: My carefully curated online presence

      Your comments: "Sort your finances out and any associated property matters and nothing else matters. If you want to pass your Netflix account to someone then do so before you die (duh)." rather assume that you are aware of your imminent death. What about the many people who die suddenly and unexpectedly?

      1. GIRZiM Bronze badge

        Re: My carefully curated online presence

        > What about the many people who die suddenly and unexpectedly?

        What about them?

        This is all an exercise in trying to control the nature of our lives to the benefit of others.

        Well, if that's what you want to do then do it: get your finances in order, make a will, assign an executor, keep records up to date, plan as though you were immortal, live as though today were your last day - you don't have to be seventy to do that!

        If you don't want to do that then, fine, don't, but you're not in a position to whine about the technicalities of your 'carefully curated online presence' as a result - if you couldn't be bothered to deal with it when you were alive, why should anyone else care about when you're dead?

        It's FUD, as though life were something that could (and, therefore, should) be quantifiable and deterministic and, oh, won't somebody think of the grandchildren?

        No, you can't be sure you won't get run over by a bus tomorrow. So, what are you going to do about it?

        The same as people did before computer technology: everything/something/nothing.

        In other news: dog bites man.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm thinking of creating a service

      that will allow the deceased persons accounts to still spam the living with invites to Candy Crush

    5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: My carefully curated online presence

      ... is on someone else's computer(s) that you don't control. Keep your email etc. local.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My carefully curated online presence

      @GIRZiM

      People get their identities stolen when they're alive. It's probably a lot easier to steal them if the owner is not still around to challenge the theft. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there is a whole new criminal awareness of how to take advantage of some stranger's death.

      Granted, it won't affect you (you're alright, pull up the drawbridge), but it may adversely affect your loved ones. Assuming you have any, which considering your attitude, is debatable ;)

      1. GIRZiM Bronze badge

        Re: My carefully curated online presence

        > People get their identities stolen when they're alive.

        Yes, it's been happening for (probably) longer than either of us has been alive, but it's certainly one of the scourges of the post everything's-connected world.

        > It's probably a lot easier to steal them if the owner is not still around to challenge the theft.

        It certainly is - I'm a little hazy on the details (it's not something I've ever been involved in myself) but, apparently, the most successful such thefts involve babies that died very soon after birth but not so soon that a birth certificate wasn't produced.

        > In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there is a whole new criminal awareness of how to take advantage of some stranger's death.

        No, it's not new: it has, as I said, been going on since long before the advent of computers and (probably) for longer than either of us has been alive.

        > Granted, it won't affect you (you're alright, pull up the drawbridge),

        Well, if you want to term being dead 'alright' then yes, I suppose so.

        > but it may adversely affect your loved ones.

        Which is why you should prepare as much as you can before you die - which has been my point all along.

        > Assuming you have any, which considering your attitude, is debatable ;)

        Oh, come now, surely you can do better than that.

        If you're going to cast aspersions upon how attractive a proposition I am as a mate/life-partner, family member or even friend then

        1. make it at least witty - a winking smiley does mitigate a little, I suppose, but it's hardly a substitute for an insult that made me laugh myself because it was clever.

        2. have the courage to do so with your name attached to it. I haven't once posted anything anonymously here, nor do I anticipate ever doing so either - right, misguided or embarrassingly wrong, I stand up am counted.

        Never, ever say or write anything (honest, dishonest or anything in between) that you wouldn’t want the person whose opinion you value the most in all the World to hear read out (or, worse yet, played back) in court/on international television, or see quoted in the international press, turned into an Internet ‘meme’ (you get the idea).

        No matter how drunk (or otherwise fucked up) you get, if it doesn’t pass that muster, it’s a bad idea: don’t do it.

        So, there's no need for anonymity, is there?

        Have some self-respect: even if your screen name is fake, use it; have an identifiable presence when you're here - otherwise you're nobody and you might as well not be here because no-one else can ever form a positive opinion of you and have any respect for you.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: My carefully curated online presence

          Thanks for spelling out the rules. It's touching how you think they matter.

          Oh, they're your rules, and like your opinions, and mine, they don't matter one jot.

          The whole point of anonymity is so that those opinions don't get tied to a real identity. You seem to after some sort of peer approval, respect as you call it. I on the other hand, am not after any sort of self respect, and certainly wouldn't come here looking for it even if I was.

          You appear to be caught up in the "oh someone else has different views to me - well they must be wrong then" mentality prevalent in the world today.

          Back on topic, my point was that it's probably a whole lot easier to steal someone's identity in the online world than it ever was in the offline world, hence the likelihood that criminals would be looking to exploit opportunities not previously available to them.

          Casting aspersions about you pleasantness as a human was based on your own words where you described your relatives as potentially retarded for falling for online scams, as many others have before - because the scams are extremely believable.

          But that's only my opinion, and it's different to yours so it's wrong. Yawn - I won't lose any sleep over it ;)

          1. GIRZiM Bronze badge

            Re: My carefully curated online presence

            Wow!

            I think you're taking yourself just a little too seriously.

            The fact that you had such a knee-jerk reaction to being "told what to do" (without even being told what to do by anyone) is telling. That's not simply putting words in my mouth, but thoughts in my head! Is there any Schizophrenia in your family - is it you?

            If you think I'm attempting to set out any rules then you really need to look more closely at your own mentality, not mine. I proffered my opinion on the matter, no more and that should be self-evident - anyone who needs 'IM(H)O' after everything has reading comprehension issues that really aren't anyone else's to cater for or pander to (not even me).

            You're right, your opinions don't matter one jot. So why are you here telling me that? I don't GAF whether you like my opinions or not, you don't think they matter, why are you wasting your time in that case? Could it be that, despite your protestations to the contrary, actually, your opinion matters a great deal to you? I think it could. Otherwise, you wouldn't be voicing it. Or rather, you might, but not the way you are doing here and now.

            You clearly have something to prove, you're just too cowardly to do so as anything other than an anonymous voice. A propos of which, thanks for the lesson in sucking eggs - I don't know how I've got by all these years not knowing what the purpose of anonymity was!

            And do you really think it easier to steal someone's ID in the digital era?

            My goodness! Forty years in I.T. and I hadn't once given that any thought myself! Thanks for the heads-up!

            No, I don't regard it as a popularity contest; I don't care about popularity, just respect and submit that you'd do well to contemplate the difference - the fact that you have such high self-esteem does not mean that you have any reason to have the same degree of self-respect. The fact that you regard it as, in your own words, a popularity contest, sheds a great deal of light on your own thinking and what kind of person you are; the fact that you hide behind anonymity doesn't mean you don't crave popularity, just that you have some half-arsed idea that you are somehow superior for not having the courage to stand up and be measured for who you are - like I said, even if your screen name is fake, stand up and be counted (otherwise nothing you say is worth anything because, for all anyone knows, in the next post you'll contradict yourself).

            Oh, dear, I seem to be caught up in a mentality, do I? Oh, please tell me more, oh, guru ... I'm sorry but I've just pissed myself at that one - would I be right in assuming you are still rather young and on a mission to enlighten us poor, lumpen souls who have yet to attain the peaks of wisdom you have yourself scaled?

            My relatives are more than capable of taking me to task for calling them retards, if that's what they so wish to do; they don't need any help from you. But, as it happens, I think you would probably benefit from their help, were they so inclined to offer it to you - you see, unlike you, they don't have reading comprehension issues, can spot a hypothetical a mile off and don't mistake it for a propositional.

            Should l I choose to enter into banter with my friends and family by suggesting they'd be retards then they are more than capable of responding in kind and putting me in my place if they feel like it; neither I nor they need your permission to speak to one another in any manner we care to and you can feel as free to mind your own business as you like, provided you keep your mouth shut about anything that is not directed at you personally - and, trust me, neither they nor I are ever going to want to speak to anyone like you unless it's to tell you to go away and stop bothering the adults.

            You're entitled to your opinion but first you need to have one. And that requires you to have the least idea what you're talking about. And as everything you have said here is simply a reflection of your reading comprehension deficit, your developmentally arrested need to tell others where they are going wrong and police their language for them, nothing more than the petulant screech of the narcissistically disordered personality, it would be very difficult to find anything based on sufficient fact in amongst all your verbal diarrhoea to actually constitute an opinion.

            Your 'opinion', such as it is, isn't wrong, no. It's so far from wrong as to be not even wrong.

            You're a gutless, wannabe SJW without even the nerve, never mind the courage, to stand up and be counted - not even behind a fake, but at least consistent, persona. You're self-satisfied, self-congratulatory and don't even possess the saving grace of being witty with it.

            You stepped in and insulted me, using my loved ones as your excuse for doing so. How dare you take my family and friends in vain! You are a sanctimonious prig, not worthy of their mention. Nothing else you have said here is of any note; not one iota of it has troubled me, because you have no honour and are, therefore, of no significance. But don;t you dare attempt to pass your dishonourable deeds off in their name or pretend that anything you have said was for anyone's benefit but your own or served any purpose than to pamper your own overinflated ego!

            And I won't lose any sleep over you either - you are, after all, nobody.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: My carefully curated online presence

              @GIRZiM

              Oh dear, looks like someone touched a nerve - lol.

              You'll be using upper case letters next!

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My carefully curated online presence

      "I'm dead - don't GAF about my 'carefully curated online presence.'

      Seriously...

      Sort your finances out and any associated property matters and nothing else matters."

      That is why anything put online should have a local backup if it is important. Or just don't put it online from the start to avoid the need to cleaning up / pass-down too much online presence.

  1. rd232

    Standards

    Is it just me, or is this crying out for an international standard? So that then users know that every account has the same standard Digital Dead Man's Switch* setup options available (weird extras if they like), and a sensible default.

    * marketing-friendly name TBC

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When my sister died she had already tidied her affairs. The remaining house contents went to a charity. I received a few small items of family sentimental value - plus her mobile phone which was a better model than my own.

    The PAYG SIM still had some credit - so I used that for a while to send texts to people who were not in her circle. When that expired then my old phone SIM was to be moved to it. Her number would then expire after a few months of inactivity. As far as I knew - anyone in her contact list had been informed of her death.

    One day there was a voicemail on the mobile. Who could it be? One of her grandsons had been hoping that there would be a voicemail response recording so he could hear her voice again. There wasn't - so there followed a sorrowful "conversation" about how much he missed her.

    Heartbreaking.

    1. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

      Epigram.

      Thanks. I can't decide what to do about deceased contacts. #nohashtag

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Online systems like PayPal should have such a deadman's handle. When it times out then any remaining funds should be automatically transferred back to the user's bank account.

    1. GIRZiM Bronze badge

      > Online systems like PayPal should have such a deadman's handle. When it times out then any remaining funds should be automatically transferred back to the user's bank account.

      Except that, in the intervening years, they closed the associated bank account and never bothered to update their PayPal account for the sake of £34.27.

    2. David 164 Bronze badge

      considering they are effectively a bank, not sure if they are registered as such in all jurisdictions, they should act as a bank. Therefore a death certificate, probate and a letter setting everything out is all one should need to access a person paypal account after they have died.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        But do you know it exists?

        As an executor, how do you discover that a Paypal account exists?

        It's only tied to an email account, and you have no way of accessing said email account because.

        You might not even know the email account exists, but assume that you do. How do you work out whether there is a Paypal account?

        Do Paypal even have a procedure for it at all?

        1. David 164 Bronze badge

          Re: But do you know it exists?

          Yep, https://www.paypal.com/gb/smarthelp/article/how-do-i-close-a-deceased-customer's-paypal-account-faq1694

  4. chivo243 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "issue of link rot"

    Yes, this is one of the banes of my existence at the moment. Anybody ever had to use an old HP or MS Link? I think some MS links deserve link rot, but never get it. I clearly searched for an issue on 2016 server, and MS returned me a link for Win 2000...

  5. Herring` Silver badge

    I keep meaning to hand over my /. troll accounts to my son before I go so as to circumvent inheritance tax.

  6. Barry Rueger Silver badge

    Not Twitter....

    ...they will give advice should you contact them, whether social network, email service, or web host.

    Says someone who has never tried to communicate with Google, Facebook, or Twitter. It is nearly impossible to raise a living breathing human at these companies.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Halcin

    Huh?? (Off Topic)

    Has someone gone through and systematically down-voted every comment?

    1. ashdav

      Re: Huh?? (Off Topic)

      My thoughts too.

      My daughters sister died yesterday (same mother different father).

      She'd had cancer treatment for 5 years

      She was 35.

      Nobody should bury their children.

      Life is shit.

      1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

        Re: Huh?? (Off Topic)

        @ashdav, I'm sorry, that's really rough. Makes me look at my kiddos and think... no way I could deal with losing one

      2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

        Re: Huh?? (Off Topic)

        Quote

        Life is shit.

        Its when you get a message from the states that a friend has passed away, and he was 9 months older than me that the above phrase hits home.

        I still have all the chats we had regarding life, the universe and everything stored away, even asked his widow if she wanted them.

        She had to do the 'jump through 7 hoops of hell' thing because he'd only made a will leaving everything to her and had the no idea about all the digital stuff left behind, because at 52, you dont plan for that sort of thing, unless you have to.

        Hence my will also has a copy of my FB and steam passwords stored in it (updated at 3 month intervals)

        And as for the banks et al wanting 17 copies of death certificates and probate certificates.... yes they do and they do run a post deaths service

        "Hi my mother has died, can I have access to her accounts?"

        "we need death and probate certificates..... hmmm its odd.... your father died recently too...before probate completed transferring his assets to your mother... we're not going to do a thing until we see legal copies of everything ... and even then we're gonna drag everything out for nine months just to add further suffering and heartache"

        "You heartless bastards. we're setting the family lawyer on you... good luck in your next job"

        (this above conversation is a seriously abridged version of what happened when ma and pa died within 4 months of each other)

      3. ashdav

        Re: Re: Huh?? (Off Topic) My thoughts too.

        Thanks for the upvotes.

        Much appreciated.

    2. GIRZiM Bronze badge

      Re: Huh?? (Off Topic)

      There's at least one person on this site who does that.

      I can only imagine that (if they're not a rogue bot) they are thirteen years old and/or have some deep-seated psychoemotional issues that remain unresolved due to arrested development (at around the age of thirteen, I suspect).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Huh?? (Off Topic)

      "Has someone gone through and systematically down-voted every comment?"

      Yes Indeed!

      I have been seeing more and more of this on the El Reg forums.

      But it isn.t the Phantom Downvoter that has me concerned, at least with him/her/other you at least know where they stand.

      It's the Phantom Upvoter that worries me and keeps me up at nights in a cold sweat.

      #1 The Phantom Upvotes are MUCH harder to detect.

      #2 You don't really know if the upvote is to coerce you into posting more comments in an attempt to ID you if Anon.

      #3 Users that receive a lot of Upvotes could be used to determine "ringleaders" amongst commentards to be added to a covert watch list.

      #4 The Upvotes could be a "False Flag" operation to distract from other comments

      (Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you)

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OnpkDWbeJs

      1. GIRZiM Bronze badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Huh?? (Off Topic)

        > Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you

        That's disturbing.

        Tell me more about points #2 and #3.

        How would that work exactly?

  9. David 164 Bronze badge

    I think you mean Generation Z, most millennials didn't spend their entire childhood online and know what offline is unlike generation z who have indeed live their entire childhood and teen life online and will short of an apocalypse spend their entire adult lives online as well.

  10. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Rosetta

    Jeez, that was bleak. I've read The Register since forever and that is the first comments section that made me cry. It's easy to forget that behind every witty poster is someone with relatives who die, and not every poster who disappears has just got bored.

    I have to say that I've enjoyed and been enriched by your company and I wish you well.

    I recently started digitising my favourite stuff that I've managed to save through my travails, my travels and my mostly misjudged charity. Everything that I have left in my flat that I value will be tossed in a skip when I kick it. Letters, photos, books that I doubt will make any sense or interest to anyone else, but I value it so I may as well record it.

    When I was 11 my history teacher told me history suffered because they didn't have enough histories of poor people, just rich and powerful people. I just hope future historians have a decent IT support able to recreate a USB-A port, software support to recreate readers for PDF, jpegs etc. Maybe we should send a crappy laptop to the moon.

    I hope all you people die clean, with your porn history cleared, and have your good stuff backed up for posterity.

  11. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    @Danny 2 - couldn't agree more

    A tough part about getting old is seeing the mortality of those around you; at some point human needs break through the masks and we realize 'that forgetful guy' is really struggling with major issues, and we are not far behind.

    Tough experience for me recently was when a colleague died suddenly. Going through another guys desk to separate personal effects from company property. Then going through the email spool for the same purposes and "curating" some of the archival record to avoid any upsetting the family further... just not a good task.

  12. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

    dopplershiftganger.com

    It's a proper ting this. Especially if you have skill, responsibility and loads of stuff. Personal and business.

    MFA, crypto, certificates and whatever else. That unless a sysadmin () is involved means not a jot or wouldn't even be on the radar unless someone is shouting. #digitalvaultwithcompartmentalisation

  13. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Sometimes you dont see it coming

    Had a colleague shift himself off the mortal coil not too long ago. I make no judgement concerning his decision; I can't pretend to understand his battle. We all have one.

    Only sign I saw and missed is that he sorted his office and gave me a couple of very nice hardbound handbook sets I've had a habit of borrowing. I just thought he was straightening up the space and being very generous. Seemed a-ok. No problems. Next day, he's gone. No note, no last words to family or anyone, just gone.

    Nobody else saw a thing.

    I guess the lesson is that we've got to let people know we appreciate them here and now; things tomorrow can be very different.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One approach...

    For a number of years now, I gave the Mrs an encrypted USB stick with details of all my online accounts, banking, shopping, utilities, phone / internet / TV subscriptions, social media (even El Reg) etc. I update it periodically with changes / new accounts. In the event of my untimely demise, she can do whatever she likes with those accounts.

  15. Slx

    My mom died a few weeks go and this topic has been very much on my mind as I had the grim task of tidying up the social media world of someone who was *very* tech savvy and all over various platforms.

    She died incredibly unexpectedly and without any warning, so there were no plans at all and no opportunity to talk to her about what to do. She just took a massive stroke caused by a fault in a blood vessel which, despite every modern technology and intervention being available, it was not repairable. She went from a happy weekend brunch, to unconscious, to dead within barely 24 hours.

    All of a sudden, I realised I had to not only contact all of her friends by phone, text and even letter, but she had made me a legacy contact on her Facebook, so I was able to very quickly memoralise it and lock it down. There was a whole virtual world connected to her that had to be wrapped up without breaking into it or trampling on her right to privacy and the confidence of those who she was in touch with over the years.

    It got me thinking about all the other social media accounts she had that I am aware of and others that I probably will never know about.

    I felt extremely uncomfortable about the idea of going anywhere near her phone. There's just so much confidential information in these devices and I was thinking about it from my own point of view and I would utterly dread someone (even if they were very close relative or my best friend) trawling my devices. There's nothing embarrassing or weird on them, but there are a lot of very personal discussions that were never intended for consumption by *anyone( other than me. So, I took that approach with her data and basically avoided opening / looking at anything.

    In the end I closed ( strictly without reading anything) the majority of her social media accounts, at least anything that was directly identifiable with her real name. Anything other than that is really just none of my business and irrelevant. I then closed and deleted any connected apps that have databases behind them, deleted them and closed off all iOS subscriptions and eventually closed and deleted her iCloud account and Gmail account etc.

    My major concern was someone might either hijack an account or that any account where people could post to her could become a source of unpleasant spam. So, I pretty much locked or fully deleted anything I could find. My logic is that while they may be secure to within 2018 norms, in 10 years time they could be completely vulnerable or some of those companies may have gone to the wall or who knows what could happen. I just didn't want to leave data floating around in cyberspace in the control of companies that I have no relationship with on her behalf..

    It's a really horrible task to have to do and I wouldn't be so sure that my own nearest and dearests would be so concerned about my privacy after I'm gone as I might have been with hers. People have very different views of confidentiality and nostalgia could outweigh where I see my private life beginning and ending.

    I decided that I will setup a legal framework in my will for my own accounts and devices that they be completely erased when I go. I will always keep things I specifically want to share in a shared space, but anything else is almost like an extension of my brain. I don't want to necessarily share it with anyone. It's far more sensitive than diary in many ways and was never intended for anyone's consumption. There are certain things that will go when I go and that's just how life is.

    All I would say is everyone should make plans for this. Hopefully we'll all live to a ripe old age and have lots of time to plan and prepare for the inevitable, but a % of us may be struck down by sudden illnesses, accidents or other bolts of lightening out of the blue. Life's not predictable and we're not immortal, but our digital legacies may well last for hundreds of years after we're gone and it's worth remembering that it's *you* who should be telling your story and leaving that legacy, not having it interpreted or reinterpreted by someone else.

    It's also about protecting your personal contacts. Do you really want a relative or possibly even a total stranger suddenly having access to conversations that may be of the utmost confidence with your online world of contacts?

    I mean, I know I have had some of my most intimate conversations where I've been very open to others and they've been very open to me online. Some of those people I know very well in my real life, but others are online only. I've acted as a counsellor at times over the years and I know some of them have to me too. I would doubt that experience is all that unusual as sometimes we can really pour our hearts out online in a way we might not do face-to-face. I feel I have a duty of care to those people to keep those confidences, even after I'm gone.

    Even forgetting about the confidentiality, morals and ethics, it will be your partner, your kids, your parents or someone else who's close to you who's left with this grim task, so it's probably better that you make positive decisions about it now and have it all happen automatically when your brain does eventually power off, rather than leaving it to a grieving relative who might not be able to make rational decisions for months after your passing or who might have very different values to yours.

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