Over the last 10 years, our world has become better connected by applications that save time and money, organize, share, and analyze information, and allow us to communicate with physically separate people and places. Because of these and many more advantages, more of our lives are lived online, protected by password and anonymity, than are stored under lock and key in a secure place. That’s fine until someone dies unexpectedly (or not) and their loved ones power of attorney falls short of their ability to find and access important information.
The Eagle Tribune of the Merrimack Valley, MA, considers the implications of the dilemma of our digital afterlife. This Wikipedia post called Death and the Internet outlines the individual policies of many digital profiles upon death.
Considering our digital afterlife brings us to a pressing question in the development of our digital lives – how do we better organize our medical, financial, and municipal lives to reduce waste and improve our use of that data, while keeping it secure? According to Naked Security by Sophos, the average person manages 19 passwords, and while they highlight the fact that 1 in 3 don’t make them strong enough, I am equally concerned about the fact that I have my information stored in 19 places! Many of these applications connect important information, like our bank accounts and credit cards on file, or use a frequent traveler, passport, drivers license, or social security number to access our personal information within a company’s own servers. There are even apps for organizing individual components of this problem, like AwardWallet, which I use for organizing my 20 loyalty programs, but none that connect them all in a single profile, like a safe deposit box. And who would? At this point, our greatest security protection online is anonymity.
Digital Life and Afterlife are inextricably tied. As long as our digital lives are spread out across the internet, it will be a legal and logistical challenge for loved ones to gather the information stored there.