“After she died, breaking into her phone was the only way to put together the pieces of her digital life.”
This story of a family devastated by an unexpected death of a mother and having the added worry of having to figure out how to gain access to two decades of their mother’s digital life, all of which was on her iPhone, is a precursor to what many of us will face in the coming years.
But the family’s solution – a workaround made possible with the help of an Apple employee – is not going to work in every instance. And it’s technically not legal.
What should a family do?
In a perfect world, we’d all have a will, a power of attorney and a plan for our digital afterlife. The digital afterlife is what Lee Poskanzer is worried about.
Adult children need to sit down with their aging parents or grandparents and go through their digital property.
- For an iPhone, users need to write down the code, pattern or password, but be aware that anything other than looking at the device and looking at files (not communications) is the only thing that can be done legally. Otherwise, this can be construed as an invasion of privacy. If someone other than the owner tries to use the hacks, it may be regarded as hacking.
- Gmail now has a means of letting an account owner name people to manage their data after they have died.
- Facebook has a system also.
But not every social media platform, bank account, subscription, gaming platform, etc. does. To protect decades of memories, including contact information, photos and digital property, users need to provide each digital property with what is known as a “directive” – clear instructions on who is permitted to take action on your behalf and what is desired to be done with the digital property. The username and password associated with each digital property will be needed as well.
Call it digital estate management, digital property, digital directives: whatever it’s called, this is something every person with a digital footprint needs to address. Before the unexpected occurs.