Legacy Tips #5-9: 5 ways to make sure your digital life is not locked up online (podcast)

facebook_digital_afterlife_what_happens_when_someone_diesAway For A Bit spoke with Damien Carrick on ABC Radio National on legal and practical considerations for managing a digital afterlife and legacy.

Gaining access to an individual’s online accounts (social networking, email) after they die is often impossible, although in some cases, next of kin have fought for access via the courts. As the podcast demonstrates, they do not always win.

Here are five recommendations from the podcast to avoid your digital life from being locked up online.

#5 Use existing services such as Google Inactive Manager

In April 2013, Google announced that their users can nominate a next of kin or someone close to them to have access to their account data if the account has been inactive for a period of three or more months.

If you’re a Google user, you can run through a relatively straightforward process to nominate who you would like to receive a copy of your Google data and for which service. You can nominate up to 10 people and specify which data they receive – i.e whether from email, blog, G+, Google Docs, Google Drive etc. You can also include a personal message for your selected nominees.

#6 Understand what you have in your digital world and what is important to you or your family

A good start is to write a list of the important digital services you use or an inventory of the valuable information and stores of memories you keep online.

You don’t need to have a digital afterlife plan for all your online information and every account but if you know there is important information that your family, friends and loved ones may want access to, by prioritising, you can decide what you want to happen to key digital assets and how to manage or provide access to them. This may prompt you to take action i.e. speaking with a solicitor to assign digital assets as part of your will process or looking into digital afterlife services that have started to emerge to support online users with this process.

#7 Have a system for archiving important online information

These days, we’re prolific creators of material online — email, photo taking and storing, messaging and general documentation.

Think about the number of devices such as laptops or phones you’ve had in the past 2-5 years. Do you have lots of information on multiple devices or have you put a system in place to keep important information you’ve created or saved in different locations?

It’s important to have a system to keep important correspondence and online assets in one place. Back these up regularly and keep them saved on up to date storage systems.

#8 Don’t rely solely on online digital services and know what you’re signing up for

It’s a tedious process but do take some time to read through the small print for online services and be clear on what you are committing to when you use a service.

With an online platform, you are only bound by terms and conditions of use that it outlines. Be clear what kind of jurisdictional rules may apply to you and what its commitment is to you and your data.

Avoid relying on a single digital service for storing all your online information. As mentioned in point 3, have a system for backing up important online memories. For example, if you use Flickr to host all your photos and have built a community around that, think about saving the content in a different way for next of kin/family and/or friends to access in the event that something happens to you as part of your digital legacy. Flickr is part of Yahoo and according to the company’s Terms of Service, a Yahoo account is non-transferable and any rights to the Yahoo ID or contents within the user’s account terminate when they die.

#9 Talk to your family about your wishes for your digital afterlife

Once you’ve understood the extent of your digital footprint and thought about what you’d like to happen to important online accounts, information or memories, talk with your family about your wishes.

Assign someone to be your digital executor and let that person know what you would like to happen with your online legacy. At the same time, share and discuss your wishes with other next of kin or family members who will benefit from being informed of your digital plan.

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