Legacy Locker Blog

To Live and Die Online

We live online. If we need to do something in the real world, chances are there is a wired solution in place on the internet.

Think about it: there’s online banking, online grocery shopping, online dating and online job hunting. From playing poker to shoe shopping, we use the internet to live our lives all the time.

Oh, and the water cooler just went digital, too, as Facebook and Twitter have us all connected in a perpetual virtual chatroom.  Our lives are now a digital experience and we spend more than a third of our time online socializing with friends and building relationships.

Our online social lives are more than photos, tweets and videos (although they are that, to be sure). Our online presence captures us completely: our experiences, our thoughts and hopes; fears and follies. In many ways the lives we live online are more authentic than the part we play in the real world.

So if we are all living online- what happens when, inevitably, we die online?

Time Magazine recently pondered this question in a piece entitled “How To Manage Your Online Life When You’re Dead.”

As people spend more time at keyboards, there’s less being stored away in dusty attics for family and friends to hang on to. Letters have become e‑mails. Diaries have morphed into blogs. Photo albums have turned virtual. The pieces of our lives that we put online can feel as eternal as the Internet itself, but what happens to our virtual identity after we die?

Legacy Locker was founded with a single purpose. To Manage Online Assets After Life and ensure that all the living that took place online can be properly archived, accessed and processed by friends, family and loved ones.

Legacy Locker . . . [is] offering encrypted space for people to store their passwords and other information. “Digital legacy is at best misunderstood and at worst not thought about,” says Legacy Locker founder Jeremy Toeman, who came up with the idea for his company midflight, when he was imagining what would happen to his many Web domains if the plane crashed. “I would be surprised if five years from now, it’s not common for people to consider their digital assets alongside their wills.”

A few years ago, the concept of living a life online seemed alien to most people. Now, it is commonplace- even taken for granted. Because so much of our memories and assets are tied to the net, it is crucial to ensure that these virtual identities are properly cared for after life.

The lessons of the real world also hold true on the internet. As we are born, so we must eventually die. Legacy Locker ensures that your online assets are properly tended to.

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Why Twitter’s New Deceased User’s Policy Isn’t Good Enough

Twitter today posted a new policy entitled “How to Contact Twitter About a Deceased User” (possibly at the suggestion of social media marketer Adele McAlear or a not-so recent Gizmodo post?), and while we think it’s absolutely fantastic that they’ve made themselves open and approachable to the concept, we also have deep concerns over both their policy and the potential precedent.  Here’s the nutshell of it:

If we are notified that a Twitter user has passed away, we can remove their account or assist family members in saving a backup of their public Tweets.

Please contact us with the following information:

  1. Your full name, contact information (including email address), and your relationship to the deceased user.
  2. The username of the Twitter account, or a link to the profile page of the Twitter account.
  3. A link to a public obituary or news article.

Please note that we cannot allow access to the account or disclose other non-public information regarding the account.

Sounds good at first pass, right?  Not good enough in our books – no offense, team Twitter!  Here’s the problem – this policy lacks the concept of desired intent.  What if an individual wanted their Twitter stream archived (and not just by the Library of Congress)?  What if another user wanted it wiped out (a challenge with any service, we acknowledge) completely?  What about someone tweeting anonymously?  What about any situation wherein the desires of the user who dies are in conflict with those who support them, or a conflict within the surviving family members?

The “what about” lists of questions can go on forever, and it’s this type of question that gets us encouraging everyone to set up some kind of digital will that explicitly outlines desired intent for any component of online identity.  This is a new kind of issue that never existed before the world of self-publishing and the Internet.  Most people couldn’t create publicly accessible content prior to consumer access of the Internet. If you were on TV “back in the day”, someone other than you owned the rights to the content (unless you were some kind of major personality, and even then…).  But online, anyone can become a content stream of some kind, and we all have different thoughts and interests as to what should happen with this content.

The situation with Twitter seems fairly innocuous until you apply this kind of logic across broader content platforms.  I’ve personally created tweets, Facebook status updates, video podcasts, blog posts, and many other pieces of content over the years.  The only person who can make a conscious choice about that content today is me.  The people who could control that content if I perished without warning could include my wife, my kids (when they are older), my parents, etc.  Even more important to consider: their wishes may be radically different in ten years than they would be in the short term.

As I said in my recent interview with AFP:

“Today, you get a shoe box full of pictures; tomorrow you will get a Flickr account,” Toeman said. “Today, you get a diary; tomorrow you will get a blog.”

It is essential that leaders in the tech industry avoid making policy decisions without deeply considering the impact.  Our team is spending a significant amount of time focused on this exact issue – what will people want to look back on, ten, twenty, fifty years from now?  It’s a hard topic to get your head around, but we’d love to hear other thoughts or comments here on our blog!

Thanks,
Jeremy Toeman, CEO and Founder, Legacy Locker

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Bringing the blog back!

It’s been about 8 months since our last blog post, much longer than we anticipated!  Candidly, we found the blog (1) had a very small readership and (2) was quite time consuming to do well, after all we didn’t want blog just for the purpose of blogging!  Also, our engineers have been spending most of their time improving the underlying server structure, which means we haven’t had any new features to bring to light.  But, we have some new features in development now, and want to make sure this blog doesn’t sit completely idle along the way!  Thanks for your understanding.

First up – we found a slight flaw in our billing system and just fixed it.  As some of our users have probably noticed, we haven’t rebilled anyone for their first year’s worth of service.  The good news?  We’re moving the annual reset date for all of these users.  The bad news?  We do intend to bill them…  If you are one of these users, please keep an eye out for an email in the next week or so giving you a heads-up that the bill will go out to your credit card on file.

Next, we’re working on a new dashboard feature.  I can’t go into any specific details about it, but it should help people with their general use of Legacy Locker.  We’re about a month or so away from launching it.

Also, we do intend to resume blogging about third party websites’ terms of service and legacy-related policies, as these posts seem to generate the most interest from our readers.  If you have other things you’d like to hear from us, please get in touch!

Lastly, we’re working on something pretty big that we hope to introduce late this year.  It’s pretty exciting stuff for us, and we think it brings a huge new level of appeal for our service and might even change the way we all think about digital legacy.  Once we have a good ETA on it, we’ll let you know via the blog.

If you have any other feature suggestions you’d like to get our way, please feel free to email us or leave a note here on the blog (or even on Twitter).

Thanks!
Jeremy Toeman, CEO and Founder, Legacy Locker

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Do websites guarantee your data protection?

We’ve been receiving a lot of questions lately as to why Legacy Locker doesn’t “guarantee” user data against loss, corruption, theft or other shenanigans.

That got us thinking – Why don’t we guarantee our members’ content?  The easy answer is that our lawyers told us not to because it would expose us to all kinds of liability.  So, we never really put a lot of thought into any such guarantees. But then we asked ourselves: Should we guarantee? Is it the “right” thing to do?  Or are we just being paranoid and trying to cover our…ass..ets…in the event disaster strikes?

Aside from the legal implications, any security breach would be disastrous.  We pride ourselves on the security apparatus we have already put into place.  Practically speaking, it is far superior to what most other websites currently employ.  But what about other websites we all use every day?  We depend on them to ensure our data is protected, and they depend on our trust.   This begs the question: Do any of the major websites guarantee our stored information?

For banking institutions and credit card companies, it is good business to reimburse their customers if someone hacks into an account, steals an ATM card or “phishes” credit card numbers off an unsecure connection.  These companies understand that they MUST do something to instill trust in the system.  That’s why they agree to make you whole again: not because they’re legally liable, but because it’s just good business. But the question remains (FDIC Insurance aside): Are they legally responsible for reinstating your trust and funds? I thought so until I read the fine print.

I was surprised to discover that not one of the major websites (Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Citibank, etc.) assumes liability for the content you store online; the banks don’t either.  All have pretty strong language in their Terms of Service that eliminate their liability from just about anything and everything (including Yahoo’s disclaimer about seizures that may result from looking at the monitor for too long).

Essentially, they’re all the same.  It’s fairly boilerplate language that encompasses two main themes: Full disclaimer of warranties and complete limitation of liability.

Disclaimer of Warranties – this means that the site is provided to you “as is” and the user has no reasonable expectation that the website will function properly, protect your stored data or be free from error.  It’s similar to buying a piece of property with a quitclaim deed. No warranties or guarantees. You’re buying it how it is and have no right to protest if it doesn’t work to your expectations.

Limitation of Liability – When using these sites, you are agreeing they will not be liable for just about any type of damage or loss you may incur.  These limitations extend to loss of profit, goodwill or business reputation, or other intangible losses.

Facebook is a different kind of animal than other more traditional storage websites.  Specifically, they do not guarantee that User Content you post on the site will not be viewed by “unauthorized persons” and it is not responsible for circumvention of any privacy or security measures contained on the site.  You should also know that even after you deactivate your account, your content may be cached and archived, thus still viewable.

So although online content is rarely, if ever, subject to an all-inclusive guarantee, our security infrastructure is superior to best practices because, above all, we respect our clients and their information, and have utilized every known strategy in protecting their sensitive data.

Below are links to some major websites’ Terms of Service regarding protection of your valuable data.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Gregg Delman
Director of Business Development

Facebook

Google

Yahoo!

Citibank Online

ING

Lastpass.com


Please note that the material contained in this blog is not legal advice and is not to be relied upon in a court of law. Furthermore, any federal tax advice contained in this communication, including attachments and enclosures, is not intended or written to be used, and may not be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding tax-related penalties under Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax related matters addressed herein.

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