New York Times Digital Afterlife

October 20, 2009 · Posted in Coverage, Interview · Comment 

Cross posted from


Yesterday The New York Times ran the interview I did about The Digital Afterlife and the need to appoint a digital executor:

Internet Protocol is Jenna Wortham’s advice column for technology. The question was:

Not to be morbid, but I have a lot of private information and details stored on my computer — in various Google Chat logs, e-mail and social networking accounts — that I wouldn’t want to be revealed when I log off for good. Who should I consult or what do I need to do to ensure my cache is cleared and e-mail and social networking sites accounts are deleted when I die?

This person wants to keep private things quiet. Perhaps they have another online persona or have made some online indiscretions or simply don’t want their family to know about certain dealings?

Things become much more complicated in attempting to keep this secret after they pass. Although there are automated services to notify your friends on social networks or selected individuals of your passing, in the case above, you’d still have to rely on someone to access your computer if you want your cache or sensitive files deleted. Yes, you’d need the digital equivalent of a “porn buddy” to wipe your computer clean of sensitive information, from financial information to, well, porn.

You can read my advice on appointing a digital executor here. What would you advise?

Have you appointed a digital executor to keep your online digital legacy alive? What about someone to delete private information from your computer or from online? Have you thought about it at all?

Let me know what you think.