I have come to a point in my life when death is more than an abstract concept. Sometime in the future, you might be surprised to learn, CabbieBlog will cease to post daily, in fact, nothing will emanate from CabbieBlog Towers.
Whether that happens next week or sometime during the next decade I have no idea, but when it does, what happens to everything I’ve produced electronically?
Think of your archive, I bet a lot of your notes, emails, long-form posts and opinions are locked behind passwords, not to mention all your digital photographs. Should a family member or biographer wish to research your life where do they go for material?
So, what happens to these electronic thoughts and memories when one dies? The answer is very unclear.
There is no clarity over who actually owns the millions of keystrokes you’ve lovingly crafted. Take cloud-based email providers Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook or BT, their terms and conditions (look me in the eye and tell me you’ve read their small print), say your emails belong to them.
Surprisingly as bigger platforms are run by Millenials, they have finally embraced the concept that their customers might actually die, and have given this a little thought. Google offers an ‘inactive account manager option’ – a wonderful euphemism – where you can tell this behemoth of communication to pass all your data to ten trusted contacts. Next of kin will not automatically be allowed access, and a request from an executor is not guaranteed.
Facebook offer to freeze or delete an account, if frozen, it only remains visible to the family. Microsoft has a next-of-kin process team but refuses to disclose passwords. Yahoo by contrast is more ruthless, upon hearing of your demise, delete the account.
The process and boundaries are still being explored in this brave new world of digital communication. Should you feel the need to pass on your thoughts and comments to later generations it’s best to download to a device that will last the progress of time, and digital redundancy – remember what happened to floppy discs.
And one final thought, should a world-renowned biographer wish to research your life, best let them have the passwords before it’s too late, it is Friday 13th today.