Cyberwill to protect web user's legacies

People concerned about what remains on the internet when they die are compiling ‘digital wills’ to help erase any embarrassing online legacies, it has emerged.

Increasing number of Britons are leaving their passwords, login details, passwords and detailed instructions to digital executors who then use that personal information to tidy up web-based information.

By accessing the information from a secure server, an executor can erase secret email folders, close subscriptions to gambling or pornography websites or remove photographs from Facebook pages, The Telegraph reported.

The ‘digital wills’ keep passwords in a secret location but can allow paying clients to update them. When they die, a named guardian can access the information when a death certificate is presented.

Figures show the average person now has 26 internet accounts for a range of services including email, banking online shopping, social media sites, Skype and PayPal, the paper said.

Cirrus Legacy, one of Britain’s first digital legacy companies, has more than 500 clients after being founded earlier this year.

“The idea was spawned because most of my life is organised online and I have got so many accounts,” Paul Golding, its co-founder told The Sunday Times.

“This service is a series of signposts that lets people know that you have these accounts and how to access them. I have bank accounts that are entirely online,” Golding said.
“We’re moving away from the traditional filing cabinet in the house to dedicated servers where we can store our important documents,” Golding added.

“Some people have even chosen to upload scans of critical documents such as passport and insurance documents or house deeds,” Golding said.

A recent study by Goldsmiths, University of London, showed more than one in 10 people had made provisions to pass on internet passwords after their deaths or had planned to do so.

At present Facebook does not release a person’s password to next of kin and only closes the page after being shown the death certificate, which can take several months.

When a Facebook user dies and the company is informed, their page can be “memorialised”, hiding features such as status updates and allowing only confirmed friends to view the timeline and post comments on the profile, the paper said.
One aspect that cannot be legally transferred after death, is digital music and e-book collections, which are licensed for individual use and cannot be bequeathed.

One in four people has more than 200 pounds worth stored in ‘cloud’ services such as Hotmail, Facebook, iCloud and Flickr.

The total value of such ‘online treasures’ in Britain is estimated at more than 2.3 billion pounds.

Legislation has been passed in several American states guaranteeing the rights of appointed executors to access or close down a loved one’s digital legacy, the report said.

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