November 20th, 2012
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Every day, several times a day, you electronically email or text someone, update your Facebook status, Tweet, take a picture on your phone or record a moment from your life which you want to save and remember.

Just as the internet opened up a whole new world of information sharing in a way no one could have ever foreseen, these electronic tools such as iPhones, computers and other gadgets strive to further break down the walls of communication and help us share everything in a way that wasn’t possible even five years ago.
But with these communication opportunities comes a responsibility to filter what you put out there and take care that this information doesn’t land in the wrong hands and used improperly.  In other words, whatever it is that you said and did, are you sure that it will only be received by the person you sent it to?  And no one else?  What happens to all this electronic stuff after we are gone?
I was thinking about these questions because the husband of a friend of mine died suddenly just about a year ago and his widow is still processing on many levels what happened.  She recently was going through his home office and found his laptop.  Her husband was a writer and she was curious to read what was stored in the his computer.Did she know the passwords to his computer?  No, she didn’t.  Could she take it to a computer store and get them to unlock it?  Yes, she could.  But did she really want to go through his computer files and emails now that he died?  She knew that whatever it is that she would find on his computer, he wasn’t here to explain it’s meaning or intent to her.

To me, this is the proverbial Pandora’s box.

The whole idea of a digital legacy is becoming a very common issue and it’s something people need to figure out.

Companies have been started to help people open and transfer a loved one’s data.  A number of books have been published addressing these personal and legal issues.  What will happen to all of your computer transactions should something happen to you?  Does anyone know your computer passwords?  Do you even want anyone to know your computer passwords?  How do you feel about all this?

In the case of my friend, she did decide to take her husband’s Mac to an Apple store and there is a process that you go through in terms of showing proof about the situation.  Eventually, Apple did unlock her husband’s computer.

So far, she hasn’t opened anything up and looked or read anything.  She says that she keeps the laptop opened up on the table next to her home computer so that when she is working on her computer she feels he is right there with her.

If you want to read more about the various issues surrounding a digital legacy, this link will take you to an excellent USA Today story:

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