Nine years on from my own father’s funeral and I have now given up trying to close his Amazon Account…and his email account…and his iTunes and so on. It is becoming increasingly important to consider your position in the digital world and the size of your ‘digital footprint’ in a highly progressive online world.
Your digital footprint represents all the information about you that exists on the internet as a result of your online activity. This could be from what you post on social media pages, your emails to colleagues and friends or even just what you have previously searched on google.
Many of you will have accounts set up across the web, some of which you use frequently and some you probably don’t remember creating. From ordering something on Amazon to setting up a newspaper prescription through a website, it’s easy to lose track of where you started and what terms and conditions you’ve agreed to.
So, what can you do about your digital footprint after you’ve gone? While some people may not mind that information about them online can always be accessed, others are more concerned about their ‘online personality’ outliving them.
Here’s what you can do...
- Appoint someone as your online executor.
- Pick someone you trust as you will be figuratively giving them a key to your online world. This will allow your chosen someone to either memorialise your accounts (popular for social media pages) or to close accounts down completely in order to protect your online presence from issues like identity theft.
- Make sure you understand the privacy settings of the websites you have signed up for and are aware of all your passwords.
- Unless you leave your ‘online executor’ all your passwords, you should be aware that it can be very difficult to shut down your accounts. Google and Facebook in particular have a very lengthy process, which is not always successful, to allow someone to gain access to someone’s account without the passwords.
- Have a formal document statement prepared regarding how you want your online accounts to be handled.
- Do you want them shut down? Do you want them to remain as a memorial where people can share memories and anecdotes? Do you want emails to be sent to inform people of your passing? This will all have to be in writing.
Make sure you take the time to have a conversation with your family and close friends about the finer details and how you want your digital footprint handled when you’re gone.
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