Sunday, May 31, 2009

Rest in Digital Peace

As if we didn't have enough to worry about, what with the tanking economy, new diseases (thanks, Mike), serial killers, and scams of all sorts, now we have a question that will follow us beyond the grave:

What happens to our digital life when we die?

Last week, CNN ran a story titled "New Services Promise Online Life After Death," which told of enterprising entrepreneurs who have created whole new industries to protect us from the pitfalls we never worried about before and won't be around to worry about once we shuffle off our mortal coils. How does my spouse get access to all my online accounts? What happens to my blog, my Facebook page, my MySpace account? Who knows how to stop all the automatic online payments I'd set up for everything? What happens to all my e-mail, and all the unanswered tweets?

Oog the caveman never had to worry about this stuff. Egyptian pharaohs just took it all with them, buried it, and sealed the door with curses on trespassers (of course, you need only look at an average museum to see how well that worked out). But you and I, who have digital as well as physical lives, have other worries that cavemen and pharaohs and medieval kings and Wild West cowboys didn't have, and most of us need help.

And so, enter new companies like Legacy Locker, AssetLock (formerly known as, DeathSwitch, and Slightly Morbid, which will - for varying fees and levels of service - allow you to leave behind detailed instructions for the disposition of your online legacy. They will keep lists of accounts and passwords, website management information, online memberships, and so on, to be passed on to the designee of your choice in the event that you encounter the biological equivalent of the Blue Screen of Death. Of course, one would have thought you could take care of all this for one price by including the information in a confidential annex to your will, and only pay for it once ... but what do I know?

There are lots of other ways people have figured out how to profit from death online. The CNN article also speaks of a service called, which will search its database of 32 million gravesites to help you find where great-aunt Nellie is buried, and of, which allows you to create online memorials to the Dearly Departed.

What will happen on that sad day in the (hopefully far-distant) future when Bilbo is no more? Who will let my legions of digital friends know that I've gone to that big server in the sky, that I've gone eternally offline, that I'm "404 not found" for good?

I guess I'll just add it all to my will, so that when my "heirs and assigns" are gathered in the lawyer's gloomy office during a thunderstorm for the reading of the will, and the lights go out after a huge flash of lightning, they'll still know my digital desires.

By candlelight.

Oog the caveman would have understood.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



Melissa B. said...

It all sounds a tad morbid, oui? On a lighter note, have you tried any of those recipes yet? And PS: Please don't forget to join our Sunday Funnies with a visit to Sx3 today!

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Maybe you can bequest the running of the blog to someone else?

Mike said...

Maybe Stapels can add an "I'm dead" service to their easy button.

Leslie David said...

I read the article. Look at it this way, if you do nothing, you can hang around in cyberspace forever.

anOCgirl said...

wow. there's a market for everything, isn't there? now there's a cyberdeath market. what will they think of next?

on second thought, maybe i don't want to know.