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Designing your digital legacy

David Daw | April 30, 2013
We lead rich virtual lives on social networking sites like Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. So what happens when real life catches up, and our flesh-and-blood bodies succumb to mortality? For our virtual selves, at least, some concrete answers are available--ways to settle our digital affairs after death, while minimizing hassle and heartache for loved ones.

Just like Google's Inactive Account Manager, these services have variable time delays that you can configure to be days, months, or even years after your last login. Most will send you an e-mail a few days before the deadline. If they don't hear back by the time your deadline rolls around, they'll automatically send a prewritten message to your loved ones. Both of the services recommended here are free but also have premium options, such as the ability to add more recipients and encrypt your message until it's sent.

Of course, if you're not concerned with that extra security and you plan on setting up Google's Inactive Account features anyway, you can use Google to disseminate your passwords and instructions for downloading all your media and shutting down your accounts. Since you can customize the message that Google sends on a user-by-user basis, you can include any relevant passwords and instructions for other services in your post-mortem email blast.

Exiting gracefully from virtual life

It's a grim subject, but the process of preparing your digital estate can take as little as an hour once you've gathered your passwords and decided what to do with all your data. More important, it can save your loved ones weeks or even months of frustration and trouble.


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