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,

Bhaskar Thakur

Digital Transformation & Marketing Leader , Growth Enabler, Recreational Runner, Learner & Seeker. On this blog I share my perspective on Technology, Entrepreneurship, Startups, Growth, Health, Running and Biking.