What Happens To Your Cloud Data When You Die?

What happens to all your cloud-based data when death strikes? I don’t know about you, but I have a stack of stuff littering the cloud as I have tried out various cloud-based services for this blog and although most of the stuff I store cloudside is innocuous, I would prefer it went up in digital smoke in much the same way as my body will do at the crematorium.

Expiry date

I guess one way of making sure all my digital accounts are nuked after my death is to put their details in a will or plain brown envelope in the top drawer as ask someone to carry out the digital deletion on my passing. This is not as easy as it sounds.

I change passwords pretty regularly so any will or testament would be out of date in a matter of weeks or months. As I seem to collect cloud services on a weekly basis and upload some data to test it, again any will would be out of date.

I also realise that the very nature of my demise plays an important part of how my digital afterlife is handled. Now if I am given some advance warning of my expiry date then I can pass some time cleaning up the digital detritus. If, on the other hand, I am wiped out without any warning then Plan A (plain brown envelope containing all passwords, user names,URLs, etc) has to kick in with all the built in obsolescence outlined above.

A quick Google search reveals that there are services out there that handle the passing on or deletion of your online life. The neatly named Planned Departure will do all you would expect the service to carry out on your behalf and even allow you to write your own obituary.

In the UK there is My Digital Executor which sounds a bit to much like My Digital Execution for my liking but has been set up by someone calling himself a lawyer although I am going to be pedantic and say in the UK we have solicitors and barristers not lawyers which are American. A third site I discovered painlessly was Cirrus which covers pretty much the same ground.

Death and killing a curry

While sites such as these appear to offer a solution in the end you are trusting your data to someone digital entity you have never looked squarely in the eyes and you can never be sure if they are totally kosher and won’t syphon off the contents of your PayPal account!

I often joke as you get older you go to more funerals than weddings but if I ever see a tall dark stranger coming down the lanes riding a white horse I shall whip up a decent tandoori chicken and dhal and hopes he enjoys a meal and moves on.

So what is your solution to data after death?

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Kevin Tea is a journalist and marketing communications professional who has worked for some of the leading blue chip companies in the UK and Europe. In the 1990s he became interested in how emerging Internet-based technologies could change the way that people worked and became an administrator on the Telework Europa Forum on CompuServe. With other colleagues he took part in a four year European Commission sponsored project to look at the way that the Internet could benefit remote communities. His blog is a resource for SMEs who want to use cloud computing and Web 2.0 technologies.

  • cutmetal

    This is why I will avoid the cloud any way I can. Where are the controls on who retains the rights to your data after you die? Does the cloud have rights to any abandoned data? Think of the gold mine left behind by your historical data. Lets look at it this way… your an artist creating media using the cloud… lets say your name is Picasso and you are a staving artist… you create hundreds of works on the cloud where it’s convenient to store and access, you make a few dollars here and there, and suddenly you die… no will, no family member has access to your account, and the cloud just sits on your data until any statutes of limitation on any claims to your data has passed… and they now claim ownership. Now your art work turns out to be worth millions as a deceased artist. Same with you historical life story that they have collected. I am a photographer… my prints are of professional quality, I went to WalMart to run off a few prints from my flash drive… funny thing is I just wanted to pick a few specific prints off the flash drive by file number, but to my surprise it loaded all the photographs from the flash drive, and then I had to pick the ones I wanted to print. When I was done printing the ones I wanted, I went to pay, … the clerk noticed the quality and asked me to fill out a form stating I owned the rights to the pictures, but then also sign the back with a expiration date to the copyright… which was not explained or very clear… as I was not relinquishing any rights to my photo’s… so why was WalMart asking me to sign away my rights if they were not storing my photo’s? So when WalMart down loads your photos for prints are they keeping your photo’s without your knowledge? To me as soon as I am done at the photo print machine, those photo’s should be deleted and no copy kept… who gets the rights to your photo’s if WalMart is storing copies on some cloud data base they own after any statue of limitations?…. You get my point… there is gold in your data in the future when you have nothing to say about it, and you have no family with any rights to it… see why the cloud is free, and being pushed???