Virtual Village: Your Digital Legacy

When people go on trips they go online and research hotels, tours, airline prices, and things to see and do when abroad.

However, from a digital perspective, one should also consider planning for the final trip: the one that has no return flight.

As with other aspects of death, there are legal and personal implications for your digital information. It is part of your assets, and it should be managed that way.

In the case of your Facebook account, the company, if notified, will change your page to a memorial and only current friends will be able to post on it. Twitter, Google and Yahoo will deactivate your account with proper notice. However, logon information to download or post information will usually not be accessible.

Twitter and Yahoo specifically state they will not provide this. Google suggests it is possible, but only with a court order. A question recently arising, particularly in the U.S., is whether these policies violate existing probate laws.

The first part of planning is to ask yourself what you want your digital legacy to be. Do you want your death to be noted on your social media sites or do you wish those sites to quietly be removed?

The easiest way to deal with your sites and data is to ensure someone you trust has access to your user names and passwords for each account. This can be done by including a list with the executor of your estate.

You can then include instructions for your social pages, blogs and e-mails.

However, most social media accounts strictly prohibit providing someone else with access to your user name and password for the purposes of logging into your account as your representative.

Some services will carry on your social media existence after you pass on. These will look at your previous interactions and post links to sites similar to ones you have recommended in the past — a sort of digital immortality. I find this option a bit macabre, but you may want to investigate these. Check out sites such as LivesOn or DeadSocial.

And if you are worried about violating your terms of use with some of your social media accounts upon your death, just remember, you can’t be held responsible.

Doug Rutherford teaches computer networking and security for Yukon College and three post-secondary educational institutions in British Columbia.

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