Internet users are usually warned that any personal information they put online stays there indefinitely, and can come back to haunt them later in their personal and professional lives. But some out there apparently believe it doesn't linger long enough.
A range of new Web sites have popped up in recent months to manage our digital information after we die. Essentially, these sites function like a cyber will, storing and bequeathing the products of our online lives - passwords, user names and photo albums - to designated loved ones.
Legacy Locker is one such site, which claims to be a "safe and secure way to pass your online accounts to your friends and loved ones." Users who sign up for Legacy Locker can essentially give their close friends and relatives a key to their "digital legacy." The “assets” that are passed on by this service can include your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, Gmail and blog services like Wordpress, and even your Party Poker account (so your loved ones can inherit your online gambling addiction.)
According to a write-up in TechCrunch from when the site first launched, “Users can select which account information will be distributed to whom (for example, you could send your PayPal credentials to your spouse, and your Zoho account to coworkers).” Legacy Locker claims to have a stringent verification process to make sure you’re actually dead, part of which includes having someone close to you send a death certificate.
These services cost $30 if you just want to store your information for a year, and $300 if you sign up for life. There is a free account option, but that limits you to three assets and only one beneficiary.
Then there are sites that go even farther. According to a recent article in the Washington Post, sites like DeathSwitch and If I Die will actually send out pre-scheduled e-mails to your loved ones after you pass away.
More from the Washington Post: “With DeathSwitch.com, if users don't respond to regular e-mails to confirm that they are still alive, the site gets increasingly worried about them, sending notes that nearly beg for a reply: "Please log on using the link below to demonstrate that you are still alive." If users don't respond within a set period of time, "postmortem" e-mails stored in their account are delivered.” Just make sure you tell the site when you’re going on vacation, or else you might return from the trip to a house full of grieving friends and relatives. On the other hand, they’d be very happy to see you.
If all of this sounds crazy creepy and perhaps over the top, consider this story from Time magazine last year about a woman who lost her daughter and found solace through Facebook. She used the social networking site to get in touch with her daughter’s friends to share memories and find out more about her daughter.
“As people spend more time at keyboards, there's less being stored away in dusty attics for family and friends to hang on to,” Time noted. “Letters have become e mails. Diaries have morphed into blogs… The pieces of our lives that we put online can feel as eternal as the Internet itself, but what happens to our virtual identity after we die?”
These new sites may be the long awaited answer to that question.
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