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  • Cameron Oglesby

What will happen to your online data if you can no longer access it?

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

If you’re like many people, you have important data on computer files and applications.

Having bank account, credit card account, investment, health, and other personal information stored paperlessly, with security protection, is a great convenience. But what if disability or death makes it impossible for you to access it? Will anyone be able to make sure your bills get paid, your credit cards don’t keep racking up finance charges, and your investments don’t go unmanaged?

Fortunately, there’s an app for that – or several apps, depending on which operating system you use.

Apple’s new Digital Legacy Contact is probably the newest, but not necessarily the easiest app to use. With it, you can set up access from your iPhone, iPad or Mac computer – so long as it’s running iOS15.2, iPadOS15.2 or macOS12.1, but not, if you’ll pardon the pun, a legacy operating system. Visit Apple’s Digital Legacy access page, and you’ll get an access key comprising a QR code and a string of text that you can either print or send as an encrypted Messages text. If you don’t use Messages, or if you use a Mac and your adult daughter uses a PC, she won’t be able to use the digital access. She’ll need a hard copy of the key, along with a copy of your death certificate; so if you’re alive but incapacitated, the app won’t help.

The contact you choose will be able to see all the messages, files and photos you saved in iCloud; all of your call history; all of your emails; all of your health data; and all of your Notes, calendars, Safari bookmarks, and reminders. You won’t be able to pick and choose. Your contact won’t be able to see any music, books or movies you bought.

Google’s inactive account manager works differently. You don’t have to be an Android user to use it. If you use Chrome or other Google products, you’re good. As its name implies, you can use it to reach out to contacts after any interval you choose – from three to 18 months – from the time Google detects you’re no longer using your Google data. Unlike Apple, Google lets you choose which of 52 data categories you want to make available to your contact. This list even includes movies, videos and books you bought from the Play Store.

It also generates an autoreply email after your account becomes inactive.

Facebook lets loved ones close or “memorialize” your page and download a backup of the data (except your messages).

If you have an app for storing all your access information, you can give your contact the main password or passcode.

Or you can just make a list of your important files, their contents, and your used ID and passwords and send them to your chosen contact.

Of course, what’s just as important as how you share your digital legacy is with whom. So be sure to choose someone you trust implicitly, and make sure you’re not giving them access to data that’s more revealing than you’d be comfortable with. And be sure to revisit, re-edit and update your settings every few years.

The important thing about your personal information is that it’s personal. It’s as different as you, your health, your values, and your priorities are. That’s why, when you contact us, the very first part of our holistic senior care management planning is a thorough three-part needs assessment in which we ascertain not only our clients’ and their families’ physical, emotional and environmental needs, but their values and priorities as well. The personal information we learn becomes the basis of a custom-tailored, coordinated plan that provides exactly the care our client needs to keep living as independently as possible, in the lifestyle they prefer, for as long as possible.

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