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Tech after life

What can you do with the digital assets of a deceased loved one and tips to manage yours

06 Apr 2020 / 10:26 H.

IN TECHNOLOGY, we often chase after the latest and greatest, at least the ones we can afford anyway. We live our whole lives on our devices, like smartphones and tablets, and in the cloud, like GDrive or iCloud. But, what happens to all this when we die, or when a loved one passes away?

I had to learn this lesson the hard way when my father passed away last month. My father used an Android phone, a Huawei Mate 10 Pro, to be exact. It has a thumbprint reader and lacks facial recognition.

Thankfully, I was the family IT department. I had his phone’s personal identification number (PIN), so we had access to my late father’s contacts and called his friends to inform them. They all came to help.

But not everyone is so lucky. We keep our personal devices and digital assets private, never thinking about sharing them, and yet they could be the most useful tools that our loved ones can have once we pass away.

With that in mind, there is a lot we can do, while we are still alive, to ensure that our data or digital assets are dealt with properly once we are gone.

If you’re an Android user, like my dad, Google has a service called Inactive Account Manager. You can find it in the Google Account settings page. It’s like a will for your Google data.

Through this management option, you can tell Google to, for example, give a trusted contact all your data from Google’s many services. Or you can have the data deleted; it’s up to you.

Google can work with the immediate family members and representatives to close the account of a deceased person.
Google can work with the immediate family members and representatives to close the account of a deceased person.

But how would Google know when you are gone? They base it on how long you are inactive. You can set the limit to three, six, nine, or 12 months.

If you have not touched your Google account in the set amount of time, the Inactive Account Manager will kick into action.

When it does, Google will send your trusted contact an email with your custom message, an explanation for the email, and a list of account data plus a download link, if you choose to release your data.

But, what if your loved ones did not leave clear instructions on what to do with their data? Google can work with the immediate family members and representatives to close the account of a deceased person where appropriate.

In certain circumstances, they may provide content from a deceased user’s account. However, Google will not give out passwords and login details. This option is available in the Google Account Help.

But, what if you use iCloud or the numerous other cloud data services, or if we are talking about devices? Even the US government could not strong-arm Apple into unlocking their iPhones, even in a criminal case.

Google has a service called Inactive Account Manager.
Google has a service called Inactive Account Manager.

This is what Yeo Siang Tiong, Kaspersky Southeast Asia general manager has to say: “If you have some information that you want to pass on to specific family members or anyone, and you have already taken care to make sure that information can be accessed on your devices, it may be helpful to have instructions on next steps written down and stored offline.

“It is not out of line to consider leaving instructions with access passwords written down and kept in a sealed, locked place or within a living will, and decide who has what power, like a digital power of attorney.”

He added that family members who are taken aback by a loved one’s sudden passing and are clueless on how to handle the data and devices left behind should respect the privacy of the deceased.

“If there is no critical information or data needed to be discovered, it would be ideal to let the leftover device and data rest in peace as well,” said Yeo.

So, if you care for your loved ones, think about and make plans for the certain and definite end, and not just chase after the ever-changing and uncertain new. Please give them the gift of peace of mind.

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