What does your digital footprint reveal?

Form Wikipedia

A digital footprint is a trail left by an entity’s interactions in a digital environment; including their usage of TV, mobile phone, internet and world wide web, mobile web and other devices and sensors. Digital footprints provide data on what an entity has performed in the digital environment; and are valuable in assisting behavioral targeting, personalization, targeted marketing, digital reputation, and other social media or social graphing services.
In social media, a digital footprint is the size of an individuals online presence; as it relates to the number of individuals they interact with.

We spend hours online visiting multiple email services, social networks, shopping and gaming sites, banking and financial services’ websites, blogs and a host of other websites which may include our own. As we surf the web from one website to the next we leave a trail and nuggets of information about ourselves. Everything we do online is part of our digital footprint.

Over the last few years publishing has become has become very easy on the web, and our digital footprint has evolved into 2 distinct flavors- Social and Personal. Our social footprint includes information we publish and share with friends and family or the world via social networking sites, blogs, etc. Our personal footprint includes information that we keep to ourselves or share with a few and includes our email, documents, financial and other details.

Facebook is the most popular social platform and our footprint on facebook includes status updates, comments, wall posts, photos, videos and links we share. For example, on an average 250 million photos are updated daily on facebook.  Similarly our Tweets, our bio, answers, questions and other engagements on LinkedIN, our video uploads on Youtube, Vimeo, our avatars on gaming websites etc. all makeup social footprint.

Our email accounts usually hold the key to most of our digital life. All welcome emails with login info, activation emails and banks statements are found in one primary email account. Most accounts also have important work emails which could include sensitive information, legal documents and communication, scanned copies of important documents, etc. All these could be part of our personal footprint. Along with email, our Pay Pal account, Ebay account, itunes account etc. all may form part of our personal footprint.

Here’s a cool Facebook app that shows how exposed our personal information is on the web.

Did you find that spooky? Yes there is so a lot out there about you for grabs..

OK So how do you find out how exposed you are?

Take a Simple Test 5 step test:

a. Do a Google Vanity Search (Google for your name) and scan through to the 20th page.
b. Do a Vanity Search on Facebook ( will also get you the Bing result). or go to Account Menu -> Privacy Settings -> View Settings -> Preview My Profile to see how the world sees your profile
c. Linked In Search for your name and see the results that pop up
d. Twitter Search: Go to www.Search.twitter.com and do a Vanity search to find out what is being tweeted about you.
e.Search for your bank account, driver license number or other unique identifiers and passwords on you local machine or install Google Local and search you local machine.

If you don’t like what you see in the results above, it’s time you take action.

What happens to your online life after you die?

Our predecessors archived their Photographs, Diaries and Documents to build their legacies and this legacy was passed on from one generation to the next. With the increasing role of the Internet in our lives, our legacy for the next generation is locked up in the cloud and governed by the Terms Of Service of the service providers ( Gmail, Facebook, Yahoo). Ever wonder how our future generations will access our legacy and know about us?
We have a thriving online life on social networks, blogs, email, and many websites. We are the first generation  to create significant Digital Assets and also the first generation to face the issue of a Digital Afterlife. We must take measures to preserve and pass on our online lives so that our heirs and loved ones have access to our memories and information to tie up our digital loose ends after we are gone.
Recently,many cases of a loved one’s passing away have been reported, with no information left behind for heirs and friends to help them to access the deceased person’s digital life. Loved ones are left with the dilemma of having to deal with a deceased person’s online account  in case they do manage to access it after a long retrieval process. Should they erase certain data from it, preserve it or shut it down? Most people do not provide details and instructions for their online accounts in their last will and testament.

Like Libby, there are many cases where passwords are not left behind, which can cause hassles for heirs. In an article in The Guardian, was the story of Donna Rowling who had to cope with our husband’s online presence after his demise which was quite a disturbing experience for her.

Donna Rawling lost her husband, Tom Cooper, in July last year. “I managed to wrap up his affairs, but the area that I was left with was his presence on the web,” she says. Tom was a motorcycle enthusiast, visiting many different countries on his bike and posting pictures of his travels on his blog. He was also a member of Friends Reunited and probably “a myriad of other sites” of which Rawling is unaware. She describes his continuing presence on the web as “eerie”, and would like some of the information removed.”Normally you get in touch with friends and acquaintances and colleagues and let them know what’s happened,” she says. “That gives you closure and stops you being contacted in future and asked how you both are. But to my knowledge, there’s no way of doing that with the web. The perception is that he is still alive and well and having fun on his motorbike.”

The Gaurdian article carried another story about Tom Stuart and his son, which highlighted the deceased user policies of major websites and why it is important to know the policies that websites you frequent have on deceased user accounts.

Tom Stuart was an active eBay member until he passed away in November 2007. His son, Darren, believes there could be up to £1,000 in his father’s PayPal account. But he has been unable to gain access: his father left no will and no indication of what the password might be.

Stuart emailed the account review team in March 2008 in the hope of withdrawing any funds in the account. “All I got back was an automated response,” he says. “I phoned the customer services department and eventually got put through to someone. He wanted a solicitor’s letter saying I was the executor of the estate. I told him, ‘We don’t have that information. There was no will.’ And the response was basically, ‘That’s our policy.’ ”

Death in life these days doesn’t mean death on the Internet. New Times tells the story of Peggy and how she wrote about her battle with cancer on her blog and Facebook page. She gained many followers who avidly read her blog. Her Facebook page garnered a lot of attention and she had a huge fan following. More than two years after her passing, they’re both thriving. Peggy’s brother took over her blog before she died and never stopped writing about memories of his sister and updates about her family. Her husband and children took over her Facebook page.

Mark Leslie blogged about a friend whom he had known 5 years through the Internet but never met. They were blogger friends. A month after her death he found out about her demise through some blogger friends. He paid a tribute to her on his blog saying,

World Without Me – Privacy in the Digital World

Today, netizens live very public lives. With Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, Google+, Flickr and many other social networks it has become difficult to keep your personal life out of the public eye.  Also, the privacy settings on these websites can be very confusing.

Stalking on Social Web

World Without Me offers a solution in one simple word – “Percial???; very simply put, Personal + Social. “Percial” is the basis of some cool features on the Digital Afterlife planning website – www.worldwithoutme.com. World Without Me tools like Discussions and Dispatches help make your web experience percial – i.e. perfect blend of personal space while still giving an option to be selectively social.

World Without Me Discussions are closed private conversations which are perfect for talking about an important issue or planning a secret event with your close friends and family. Only the people you invite to a Discussion can view and participate in that particular Discussion. For example, you want to throw your best friend a surprise birthday party. you may start a Discussion on World Without Me inviting a few close friends to discuss the details of the party in secret out of sight of party poopers.

 Dispatches on World Without Me is a cool way to schedule messages for future delivery. You could set a future message to be delivered next week, or next year or even after a decade! You can also set Dispatches to be forwarded to your loved in your Digital Afterlife.

Moreover, you can personalize Dispatches by attaching audio or video clips or any file you would like to share with the recipient. For example, you want to send a future message to your spouse on your anniversary, containing a video montage of your last vacation together. You can create and attach the video montage to your Dispatch and schedule it for delivery on the date of your anniversary.

To add to your Percial experience, you can create a Digital Autobiography on the go by archiving your Digital Footprint at World Without Me. You can add important emails, upload documents, archive your Tweets and Facebook updates to your Digital Footprint and share it with your close friends and family during your lifetime and also after death.

The percial experience at World Without Me is a relief from the otherwise increasingly creepy social network scenario present today. Don’t think social networks are creepy? Well you surely have another thought coming after this app experience.

Digital Legacy on autopilot , Say Cheers To Life!

” If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.” -Morpheus!!

The speed at which digital universe is swelling (ZettaByte by end of 2011!!) makes me think What is Real? People or Data?

We push hours of videos, tons of photos, blogs, Facebook Updates, Tweets, Emails onto the web everyday or, as Morpheus would say.. We are the medium for hours of videos, tons of photos, blogs, Facebook Updates, Tweets, Emails everyday (Am I not mighty impressed with Morpheus!! 🙂 )

Our Digital Footprint may start haunting us in our Lifetime and Afterlife. Someday your grand daughter will go “Here’s My Grand Mom, She was an awesome soul.”

Digital Footprint

Privacy and Security of Data is grey area in the terms of use fine prints of the service providers. “William Talcott, a prominent San Francisco poet with dual Irish citizenship, had fans all over the world. But when he died in June of bone marrow cancer, his daughter couldn’t notify most of his contacts because his e-mail account–and the online address book he used–was locked up.: Reported Elinor Mills of cnet News in her story Taking passwords to the grave.

It is not easy for friends and families to access your digital legacy after your death. “Laws in the United States and elsewhere are vague on the fate of digital rights to online accounts after death, leading to complications and legal wrangling for survivors who want access to the online services of the deceased.” says Rob Lever of the AFP.

It important we filter and archive data and and build digital legacy for the next generations. “When you’re dead, you’re dead, and it’s not necessarily going to be important to you; however, your loved ones are left picking up the little pieces,

Digital Footprint- How will the world remember you?

We add digital information to the world wide web every day; emails, documents, social media updates ( Facebook, Twitter etc.) photographs and the list goes on. The size of the “digital universe??? will swell so rapidly this year that it will pass the “zettabyte” barrier for the first time. However, most information we add to the cyberspace does not have “archival” or “pass-along value” i.e. one would not include that information in one’s legacy/ autobiography.

A full 40.5 percent of tweets can be classified as “pointless babble,” according to a new study from Pear Analytics. 37.55% tweets are “conversational,” 5.85% “self promotion.”, 3.6% “news”, 3.75% “spam” and 8.7% Tweets have “pass-along value”. If we carefully filter the emails and documents we receive everyday, I’m sure there will be a similar distribution i.e. 90%+ emails and documents will not be the the Legacy kinds.

According to allfacebook , as of September of 2010, more than 300 million  have died since the website launched i.e approximately 4.5 % and another 200,000 members die every year.

When we will die we will leave behind nuggets digital information across the digital universe- documents, emails, social, photographs. The question is how do you want the world to remember you? For the 90%+ babble or the 2-5% Legacy? For the wild party you had on your 25th or the good that you do everyday? With services like World Without Footprint you are in control of your digital footprint.

World Without Me Footprint
World Without Me Footprint

World Without Me Footprint gives you the tools to archive the digital nuggets that really matter and create your Autobiography on the go.  You can Aggregate everything Digital of significance- Momentous Facebook status updates, Significant Tweets, Emails, and Documents and share it with the people that matter .

World Without Me has an easy to use Filtering and Archiving process. Documents can be uploaded directly to World Without Me. To Archive your Facebook updates, link your Facebook account and select the Facebook updates you want to Archive. To Archive your Tweets link your Twitter account and define a custom #Tag to Archive Tweets on World Without Me . All Tweets with defined #Tag will be archived. Emails can be archived by forwarding them to to Footprint@worldwithoutme.com. Attachments will be archived as documents.

You control who has access to your World Without Me Footprint and When. You have the option to share your Footprint during your lifetime or only after your death.

Digital Afterlife- Your Digital Vault

There is one thing common among humans, we all die; however, the experience of death of someone close is uniquely personal story.

Intensities of relationships vary and so does the reaction to managing digital assets postmortem . For example your wife may want to make your digital footprint personal while your children may think it’s best left public.

With the terabytes of data we create in our lifetime it’s  important we decide what happens to the data when we die. In 2004 when Yahoo denied US Marine Justin Ellsworth’s family access to dead marine’s e-mail his father John had to go to the court to get access to his son’s email account.

However, if one plans, their families may not have to go through the same ordeal. WorldWithoutMe’s Digital Vault let’s you save login credential to your digital and social footprint and bequeath each to different individuals on your World Without Me Trigger.  You could  give access to your emails to your Wife, Facebook to your daughter/ son and so on..

You could also leave details of the Afterlife policies of these sites for the next of kin.

Digital Vault
Digital Vault

The content of the vault would be unique for every individual however, here’s a quick checklist of items to add to Vault for those that have not started planing their Afterlife:

  • email ids
  • Social Media ids (Facebook, Linked In, Twitter others)
  • Social Cause ids, with notes and instructions
  • Online bookstore ids
  • Movie rental ids
  • Deals Website ids
  • Airline Membership details
  • Club Membership Details
  • Digital Photograps id/back up/location

One could also add a lot of other information to make life easy for their loved ones including:

  • Location of duplicate keys for car
  • Location keys for bank locker
  • Mobile phone details/ phonebook