Monday, May 31, 2010
The third speaker in the rapid-fire keynotes was Adele McAlear with Death and Digital Legacy.
That presentation was definitely nowhere near as much fun as any of the other ones, simply due top the morbid topic. It is a brand new domain - what do you with all the electronic assets when their owner (producer, creator) dies? Who has the rights to decide what happens, and how are the service providers handling it?
First, Adele showed us the breadth of our "online footprint". From email accounts to flickr uploads, blogs, tweets, WOW characters... Each service provider may have different policies for dealing with a deceased person's account, but in reality, only Facebook has a stated policy. And what about paid subscription services? When a person dies, the credit card they used to maintain that service is cancelled, and unless a survivor has access to the account, they can't change the credit card on file (I wonder what happens in the cases where the service have "gift subscriptions", such as "buy Person a pro account"). The survivor can't gain access to the account because it is tied to an email account, to which, in all likelihood, they do not have access.
So what solutions do we have, if we want to leave something behind, if not for ourselves, for our friends, fans, followers?
First, we should make a list of our digital assets. What accounts we have, and how we'd like them to be preserved after death. For example, we may want blogs to be preserved or archived, but we may think that our twitter account history is just not worth the effort. We should make sure that our family knows about our online accounts, too, so they know what to expect.
Then we appoint a digital executor. This is someone with whom we will have discussed the matter, and who will be responsible for our digital legacy. This does not have to be same person who will execute our will. Then, we create an email account exclusively for this purpose, and set it up as a "backup email account" for our regular email account. This way, when the executor wants to take over our main email account, they only have to request a password reset be sent to the backup email account. The password to the backup email account should be kept with our will. From there, the executor will be able to gain access to other accounts by requesting a password reset.