What Happens To Your Online Self After You Die?

from the not-a-fun-topic-to-think-about... dept

There have been plenty of hoax stories about people setting up popular online personalities who then “fake their online death” to get away from it. However, obviously, there are plenty of people who really do end up dying, leaving an online presence that no one is quite sure what to do about. Plastic points to a story which focuses mainly on the untouched Friendster profile of a young man who died. With offline things, family members can easily shut down bank accounts and go through mail. However, it’s not so easy to get access to online passwords — or even know what accounts you need to check. Since the person profiled in the story had his instant messenger password stored on a computer, his mother has been able to log into his account, but that has apparently freaked out some of his friends who want to know why someone who has died is logging on. No matter what, it’s a bit surprising that there really isn’t much of a standard procedure about what to do with online accounts after death.

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Comments on “What Happens To Your Online Self After You Die?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Impossible vs. Impossible

With a web site, or other online ‘personality’ in a system that has administrators, there should be some way to certify to the admins that the person is deceased (certified copy of Death Certificate) and have the content removed. As such, I have real trouble believing the anorexia site story…
However, there are systems that are intentionally resistant to administrative override. My wife died 8 years ago. She had a public PGP key, available via the key server network. I do not know her PGP passphrase. There is no known technique for revoking or removing her key.
Escrowing the “deep” password/passphrases, like PGP, in your Safety Deposit box is a good idea. I imagine most people will be just as thrilled to think about this as they are to think about their last will & testament… listen to the voice of experience and think about this.
Losing a spouse after 20 years of marriage is no fun; while the whole situation sucks, there are two or three things that REALLY bother me. What to do with her glider (R/C model airplane motor/glider that she scratch built) is one… Her PGP key still being online is another that bugs me to this day.

Anonymous Coward says:

Leftovers from life

My cousin’s widow hasn’t cancelled his AIM account. It’s part of the family AOL account, which I’m sure is one reason for the continuation. I also think that she logs on every now and then to see whether old friends (who may not know that he died) are trying to contact him. I get a bit emotional each time I see his name pop up, and I’m glad that she has the opportunity to keep something trivial going. It’s a nice random reminder to think about him.

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