Sunday, May 26, 2013

Making a stronger case for planning the "digital afterlife"; I update my own Account Manager

I have recently updated my own Google account to provide direction as to what should happen should it suddenly become inactive.  I will be patching together directions for my other accounts soon (AOL,. Verio for “”, Facebook, Twitter. Etc). 
The Account manager, in my case, required 2-step verification, and for me to provide an e-mail address of the preferred contact (the  “afterlife” trustee in case of my own death) with an automated message.  A warning is sent when the account has been inactive for two months.
There are reasons why an account could become relatively inactive even during life.  These could include hospital stays (hospitals are notoriously paranoid about allowing patients to have electronics in the rooms – they ought to provide Internet access that you can pay for, just like phone),  long term jury duty (if unlucky enough to get on a controversial trial requiring sequestering), overseas travel (especially to non-western countries), new employment requiring travel or even some kinds of volunteerism.. Another possibility is disaster recovery, especially if there is widespread damage to infrastructure (especially communications) in a geographical area.  That could occur because of terrorism.
Paul Sullivan has an important essay on this matter in his “Wealth Matters” column called “Leaving Behind the Digital Keys to Financial Lives”, p. B7 of Saturday Business Day,  the New York Times, link here .

Practices that seem necessary for security – such as different passwords for different accounts – can confound lives for others after one is gone or is incapacitated.
One fact that has always impressed me is that service providers aren’t more squeamish about the idea that people can self-publish and broadcast and then not be held accountable if they disappear and no one else can answer for them.  Perhaps that’s part of the Section 230 and DMCA Safe Harbor world.  If you think about it, you can see how the “Whitelisting” paradigm of newer social media could be leveraged to require more pre-arrangement with others before publication. 


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