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What Happens To Your Data When You Die?

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the charon-dot-com dept.

The Internet 628

dacarr writes "Your data - that is, the personal web pages and projects you have worked on to make the 'net a better place - are presumably password protected. But sooner or later the time will come when you take that last breath, and with you goes your passwords, but not your data. It's still there for your benefactors to deal with. And while many famous people who are no longer with us (e.g., Douglas Adams or Chuck Jones) have a staff for this, well, many of us don't. As such, have you planned for the hereafter, and if so, how?"

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628 comments

Rest In Peace (5, Interesting)

Bryan Ischo (893) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045498)

When I was in college a friend from the rugby team killed himself. I noticed days later that his student computer account was still open and emails had been received after his death. It gave a strange feeling to "finger" his account (which was how we found out about people in the old pre-web days) and have it return status information about him almost as if he was alive. I guess I can't really describe how it felt, almost like in some way some part of his life was still going on even though he was no longer around. I wrote to the system administrators and asked them to close his account down, which they did.

Not that it's relevent to the question at hand, but I never could understand what would cause someone to take their own life. Of course, logically I understand what causes it - complete and utter despair - but emotionally, I guess that I have never (thankfully) felt down enough to empathize with someone who commits suicide. It seems like such a waste. The summer before this he and I had decided to try to get into good shape for the upcoming rugby season, and we pushed each other at the gym and during runs and sprints. After he killed himself, I just had to wonder, what is the point of working so hard to get into good shape and then just ending your life?

Personal anectodes aside, I don't really see much point to this Ask Slashdot question (which is usually the case as Ask Slashdot is the lamest part of Slashdot by far). Your digital files will be treated the same way as your paper files after you die, and people have been dealing with the question of how to ensure that their personal effects are handled in the way that they would want to for thousands of years now. My advice to anyone reading this would I guess be to keep encrypted anything that you don't want anyone to see after you are gone, and for anything else, don't worry about it.

What would I care? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045515)

Let the world know exactly what kind of person I was.

A dirty old man.

Just in case the server crashes and burns... (-1, Informative)

pigscanfly.ca (664381) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045520)

Just in case the server crashes and burns (like they usually do),I have put up a mirror.
The mirror of http://www.douglasadams.com/ is at http://mirrorit.demonmoo.com/r_4/www.douglasadams. com/ [demonmoo.com]
The mirror of http://www.chuckjones.com/ is at http://mirrorit.demonmoo.com/r_4/www.chuckjones.co m/ [demonmoo.com]

MOD PARENT DOWN (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045748)

This has to be some kind of karma-whoring self-promoting bot, he mirrors EVERY FUCKING LINK POSTED TO SLASHDOT - even high powered webservers that OBVIOUSLY won't feel even the slightest bit of the /. effect.

Mod him down, as I do whenever I have mod points

I know why... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045549)

His submitted article on slashdot didn't get accepted.

Re:Rest In Peace (4, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045551)

> My advice to anyone reading this would I guess be to keep encrypted anything that you don't want anyone to see after you are gone, and for anything else, don't worry about it.

"Dad. Mom. I'm only gonna say this once. For the sake of your children, please encrypt your pr0n. We really don't wanna know."

Re:Rest In Peace (4, Interesting)

Azureflare (645778) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045662)

Seriously man. One of the freakiest things that has happened to me is administering my Grandfather's computer. He wanted some AOL settings moved over to another drive. Well, ol' hapless me not knowing much about AOL, I accidently happened upon some folders containing pictures.... Of old people pr0n. I don't know if he noticed that I happened upon it, he's a bit slow, but he didn't say anything, and neither did I. Probably the most bizarre and incredibly frightening thing I've seen on the computer (And yes I've seen goatse... that was pretty bad, but not as bad. That one with the fat woman was pretty bad too. But since then I've wised up and put all those damn domains into my hosts file routed to 0.0.0.0).

Anyway, yeah. People, encrypt your pr0n. It can be quite nasty. Be nice to the sysadmins.

If it's a close relative, I may just want the stuff on the drive for posterity's sake... But still, it can be tempting to just format the whole drive without looking at anything.

Computers are such personal things. They're like an extension of your mind. Perhaps a little dirty extension of the mind? OK, now we're getting into mixed metaphor land. I think I'll leave it here.

Ahem, just hope my grandfather doesn't read slashdot... Not much danger in that though.

Don't worry, we won't tell (1)

Atmchicago (555403) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045728)

Yes, he doesn't know that Michael Savu [bash.org] reads slashdot.

Re:Rest In Peace (5, Insightful)

BK425 (461939) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045667)

"our digital files will be treated the same way as your paper files after you die"

No, they won't be. I have a cousin who's been doing estate law for ~40 years and I've helped him on some extremely difficult cases where clients did not leave their passwords. You're personal affects and papers are accessible, unless you take positive steps you're digital affects probably won't be.
A lot of folks may not want next of kin going through their hard drives, but there probably is stuff on there that an heir or executor will -need-. Give secure storage of these things and continuity of access real thought please.

Re:Rest In Peace (1, Funny)

VistaBoy (570995) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045675)

Suicide is the coward's way out. Why kill yourself and end up in Hell when you can get sweet vengeance for the same price?

Re:Rest In Peace (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045743)

I guess the bullies at Columbine should have though about this before being assholes.

The most important pro-choice. (-1, Troll)

Thinkit4 (745166) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045696)

If you consider yourself a libertarian, this is perhaps the most important right--to determine the time of your own death. By the way, if you're saying this suicide inconvenienced your rugby team, that's extremely shallow.

Just in case the server crashes and burns... (-1)

pigscanfly.ca (664381) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045712)

Just in case the server crashes and burns (like they usually do),I have put up a mirror.
The mirror of http://www.douglasadams.com/ is at http://mirrorit.demonmoo.com/r_314/www.douglasadam s.com/ [demonmoo.com]
The mirror of http://www.chuckjones.com/ is at http://mirrorit.demonmoo.com/r_314/www.chuckjones. com/ [demonmoo.com]

Re:Rest In Peace (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045737)

I never could understand what would cause someone to take their own life

If your daily existence is an absolute hell and you know with almost absolute certainty that the next thirty or fifty years of your life are also going to be hell and there is nothing you can do to change it then suicide is a sensible option.

Hell. I am twenty-nine years old. My life has always been pretty shitty. When I was younger my father got locked up for abusing my sister, my family never had any money, etc. Somehow I went to college but now I still have a horrible low paying job only now I also have tens of thousands of dollars in student loans that will financially cripple me for the rest of my life.

I don't have any friends. I'm 29 years old and have never had a girlfriend. I probably have aspergers syndrome or some form of high functioning autism. Being uncharismatic, poor and ugly I have little chance of ever having any real friends or a girlfriend.

The only reason that I don't kill myself is because one day I am going to get revenge on all you fuckers, you screwheads, you scum, you filth. One day a real rain is gonna come and wash all this shit away. One day I'm gonna flush all you fuckers right down the fucking toilet. True power, all the kings men could not put it back together again...

It will take care of itself... (5, Insightful)

bobej1977 (580278) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045500)

Don't overestimate the value of your data. When you pass on, the only person who probably cares about your data will be dead.

That said, I have a little fire safe that I keep important stuff in, like car titles, contracts and cd-rom backups of my computer files. Some of it is sentimental stuff like letters and writing. I imagine if someone decides it is worth publishing, it may live on significantly past my life time. Perhaps none of it will, but I'm not too worried about that, I'm happy that my "important data" lives on in the only place that matters, in the memories of my family and friends.

Basically, usefull and/or popular information has an indefinite life span because people will preserve, expand and share it. Call it the natural selection of information. We don't really need to do anything different to keep that going. Frankly, it's a good thing that useless and unimportant data dies, I'd hate to think that a future historian would be forced to search through petabytes of things like 100 year old Slashdot first-posts in order to find information about our recent war with Iraq.

Re:It will take care of itself... (4, Funny)

MikeXpop (614167) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045627)

That said, I have a little fire safe that I keep important stuff in, like car titles, contracts and cd-rom backups of my computer files.
You are such a geek. I say that as a compliment though. I salute you.

Re:It will take care of itself... (2, Insightful)

Homology (639438) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045725)

Don't overestimate the value of your data. When you pass on, the only person who probably cares about your data will be dead.

There is one group that would care, and that are future historians trying to understand us. All the written letters, document, newspapers, records of various sorts are what the historians have to work with. Future historians may in some sense have less to work with due to problems preserving digital data.

How about... (4, Insightful)

errxn (108621) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045501)

...why do I care? I'll be dead.

Re:How about... (2, Insightful)

AaronD12 (709859) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045526)

It's almost like the people who were killed in the World Trade Center... their cell phone voice mailboxes were kept running by their loved ones so they could hear their voice one more time...

How about... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045700)

The people around you, you insensitive clod?

spirit in the sky? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045510)

It goes to the spirit in the sky, of course.

Re:spirit in the sky? (1)

Gabrill (556503) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045599)

No, it stays here with your brain and internal organs in specially blessed pots. That way you can dry out and still retain all the information that our descendants will need in the next 2-10 thousand years.

Re:spirit in the sky? (0, Offtopic)

another_henry (570767) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045657)

I. Hate. That. Fucking. Song.

With apologies to Mr. Cobaine (4, Funny)

MikeXpop (614167) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045719)

Where do bad files go when they die?
They don't go to heaven where the angels fly.
They go to a folder of /dev/null/ to wait,
Won't see em again 'till 2038.

Tim Maroney... (2, Interesting)

MAXOMENOS (9802) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045513)

...still has all his journals and so on online. Perhaps much to the consternation of the people who despise him.

To be released upon the event of my death.. (3, Funny)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045516)

Fuck you, you whiny douchebags! .. remember, this doesnt apply 'till I'm dead.

Aw, shucks.. You can have it now.

yeah, it is a kinda weird situation (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045523)

Ximian's Ettore Perazzoli died last year but his site and blog are still up:
http://perazzoli.org/blog.php

Re:yeah, it is a kinda weird situation (2, Insightful)

xoba (725894) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045680)

i wonder who/what's maintaining it and how? perazzoli.org is registered to him but expires in january 2005. perhaps some of his colleagues could pick up on it and preserve it in his memory. its a bit sad imagining what look like his enthusiastic life ending sometime after his last blog entry of Saturday, November 29, 2003

Simple (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045524)

I just use my first name and digit 1 for all the accounts I have that require passwords.

Sooner or later they will discover a vulnerability.

Re:Simple (4, Funny)

chimpo13 (471212) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045592)

I just use "password" for all my passwords.

Re:Simple (5, Funny)

dicepackage (526497) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045676)

Not all of your passwords. I tried to log in to your slashdot account with "password" as the password and couldn't get in.

As is consistent with my beliefs... (2, Funny)

Adlopa (686151) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045525)

...mine goes to the Recycle Bin.

Dead man's handle (4, Informative)

mkavanagh2 (776662) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045530)

There's software out there to do any task you like if not deactivated in a certain time period. I think it's on arsware.org, or google.

Re:Dead man's handle (5, Informative)

mkavanagh2 (776662) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045586)

I found it: http://daisyman.arsware.org/dms/ [ttp]

This application was sparked by an Ars OpenForum thread about what would happen if one of us were to shuffle off to that Great Motherboard in the Sky. Software which would act as a proverbial "Dead Man's Switch" came up, which is basically a system that, if not reset by a given time, will automatically carry out a series of tasks, such as posting messages to websites like Ars, sending e-mails to loved ones (or hated ones), and encrypting or destroying sensitive files (*cough* pr0n *cough*). Interest was expressed for the creation of such software, and well, here it is.

Re:Dead man's handle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045746)

WTH is ttp:?

Find a porn erase buddy! Seriously....... (5, Insightful)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045536)

I can't speak for Douglas Adams but Chuck Jones' entire enterprise is handled by his lovely daughter Linda who literally busts her butt to run everything. That's hardly a "staff". Chuck would have been content to never have drawn another cel or market anything but thank heavens Linda suggested it.

Timothy Leary [leary.com] is another good example of dedicated fans who keep the site running after he died and an even better example is Peter McWilliams [mcwilliams.com] who put the entire text of all of his books online before he passed on. I recommend Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do. The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Country [mcwilliams.com] .

Frankly as far as data and death are concerned most of you /.ers reading this should be concerned with one thing: finding a porn erase buddy and give them a housekey and all of your passwords. The idea is that if you die unexpectedly your porn erase buddy will go into your machine, clear your machine of all the pornographic files. In addition you can also have him/her to clear out your conventional meatspace porn so your Momma will still highly of you even after you're gone.

Re:Find a porn erase buddy! Seriously....... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045681)

Interesting.

I had a roommate in college die. Me and the other roommates felt it our duty to 'censor' his random stuff in the dorm room that his parents. We found porn, fireworks, airline-sized booze and 2 joints. I think the memory we provided (lack thereof, more precisely) was worth the moral dilemma of 'intrusion'.

Re:Find a porn erase buddy! Seriously....... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045722)

My porn erase buddy is my wife. She knows all my passwords, and will be responsible for all my data after I'm dead (hopefully nowhere in the near future, as I am only 20). But she knows where all my porn is (hell, she downloaded half of it) and I'm sure if I died she would send it to her computer and delete it off mine :P.

Wills are great (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045537)

This is exactly why you make a will. Passwords...how ever you store them...should be left to the people you wish to have said information. It's that simple

Always be prepared (5, Interesting)

stecoop (759508) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045547)

Your data should be treated like what your mom said about underwear. She always said you better have a clean set just in case you get hit by a bus and have to go to the hospital; you better have a clean pair. Just like underwear being clean, you better not have anything you don't want her to see - at least encrypt the good stuff or even use those crazy alternate data streams [patriot.net] but don't leave it for everyone to find (especially anyone from RIA because you know they dig you up to get you into court).

Rehashed (2, Interesting)

Zathraskun (580270) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045552)

I'm probably rehashing, but in my bank saftey deposit box I have a notebook with all of my passwords and what do to with all of my electronic stuff, like who to notify and what to do with my data as well as the stuff in my safe.

Work vs Personal (4, Interesting)

ka9dgx (72702) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045554)

At work, it's covered. I'm the entire IT staff for our small business, so I know it's important to keep this covered, no matter how remote the possibility is (I hope!!).

I have a copy of the current server layout, (well, almost current) and ALL of the pertinent passwords WRITTEN DOWN, and kept in a safe. (Right next to the backup drives) My friend who covers for me when I'm on vacation is well known to my co-workers, and boss.

So... if I kick the bucket, there will be a way for everyone else to pick up the pieces, continute business and move on with life.

Now at home, it's a sticky wicket... I currently don't have anything up on our web site, so that's not a big deal. My wife gets to decide what to do... and I need to talk with her about this issue.

For me, the big question then is what becomes of my 80,000+ photos? I've got some good ones, that I even managed to sell. I'd hate for them to just get pitched. (Thus returning to the main question)

Odds are, if she wanted to, she could back all of my stuff onto a new spiffy $200 drive (200Gb now, and twice as much 15 months from now). I'm probably about to do something like this to save my late father-in-law's data.

Gruesome topic, but it's good to plan ahead.

--Mike--

I'm Immortal, so far

Re:Work vs Personal (2, Interesting)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045620)

You, your friend who covers, and your wife take a car trip (not far fetched is it?!?) Theres a major pile-up and you all end up dead! What do you do? didnt think of that did you? well its certainly not a tin-foil-hat scenario? You gotta make sure that nothing links you and your cover buddy, you must stay away from him by several miles!

When I die... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045558)

When I die, all my online timebombs go off... By which I refer to the "I'm a crank!" mass email floods which will expose the many crimes of several prominent politicians to the press... These, of course, are merely forestalled on a weekly basis by me resetting the countdowns.

Even though all the info's false, I still like to have my personal assassination prevention setup established just in case I actually learn something that is important some day. Shouldn't you?

Pedantic aside (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045559)

It's your beneficiaries, not your benefactors, who'll have to deal with it after you're gone.

Better still, call them your heirs or inheritors. I know my files will be more burden than benefit.

Bigger in Death (-1, Flamebait)

Mr. Darl McBride (704524) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045561)

Well, in the case of one famous man [tinyurl.com] , his passing lead him to be one of the most famous figures [tinyurl.com] in open source culture.

Can you honestly tell me you haven't seen or heard of this man every bit as often as Richard M Stalin or Linux Torvalds? We are greater in death.

Re:Bigger in Death (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045649)

I certainly won't forget that in a hurry. Although I intend to try. Perhaps alcohol and electroshock?

Goatse Alert! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045658)

Parent links are to Goat.cx. Consider yourself warned.

Re:Bigger in Death (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045670)

DOnt click it. Its the goatse man

Re:Bigger in Death (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045716)

Thanks, but I don't care for naked guys abusing their anuses. Please mod this troll down.

when i die... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045562)

I'm having my machine buried alive with me.

Service related to this (4, Interesting)

odano (735445) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045567)

MyLastEmail [mylastemail.com] offers a service somewhat similar to this.

Re:Service related to this (3, Funny)

duckpoopy (585203) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045720)

This service has a free 3 month trial. Act now if you plan on checking out soon!

Take it with me (1)

packethead (322873) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045568)

I don't know about you, but I plan on taking my data with me.

Donald Duck (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045569)

Donald Duck is going to have a SCREAMING ORGASM when he gets his data secured for the afterlife of swimming in Daisy Duck pr0n.

software (4, Interesting)

Apreche (239272) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045570)

Here's what you do. First get a cellphone, a must these days. Next, make sure your pc is always connected to the net. Next write a piece of software. This piece of software will erase absolutely all of your data completely and irreperably. Or at least anything you don't want getting out. You can also write it to send data to certain people/places. In fact, you can write it to do anything you want with your data. Just set up a thing where you contact your computer directly or via cellphone to prevent it from doing its stuff. In the event of your death your data goes to where it should. You could even have it IM/E-mail friends about your death and put up a website about your life and such.

Heck, if you are really good you can write the program to simulate your daily digital life. In effect making it so people who only know you on the net think you are alive. He died on thursday? I IMed him on friday and he posted to /. on saturday!!!!

Oh, just so you know, I'm actually dead and this is a program I wrote that is posting to slashdot. ph33r!!!!

Re:software (2, Interesting)

simonjester2424 (597199) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045731)

What I find so funny about this idea, is the image of all the ways it might report ones death early. "Oops, we didn't catch that bug", or "Oops, wrong command, I just started the wrong program". Better be ready to call up every one you know and inform them that "Hey Mom, I'm not dead, and if you check your email and get a message from two minites ago that I am, well, I'm not..."

Re:software (2, Insightful)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045738)

Good grief - there are so many things that can go wrong, and the next thing you know all your data is erased and people are notified of your death. All because the phone network went down [berkeley.edu] while you were on a trip, or the inet connection dies (happens way too often here).

burn it (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045575)

I've left standing orders for any data left on my computer to be destroyed upon my death.

Multiple paper copies of important legal and financial information are stored in secure locations.

Script (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045577)

I have a script that if I don't use my computer for longer than 5 hours it assumes I have died and sends / to /dev/null.

Online headstone? (1)

obey13 (731453) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045580)

You know, in a odd way personal webpages might serve as a legacy of sorts. Though the viewer for the most part might not know you're dead, your projects, photos, thoughts, and "stuff" (basically your life) is still up and being viewed.

I don't know about anyone else, but I don't really want to be forgotten.

(And I know this is probably a silly way to be remembered, but its just a thought)

My late wife (1)

drsmack1 (698392) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045588)

When my wife was killed in a traffic accident in 1998 I had the unhappy task of cleaning up her computer. I still have her docs (she was a teacher) and her website and whatnot. I don't know about other people's data; but for me the thing that hit home was her website which was one of those late '90's "This is the stuff I think is cool" kind of sites that basically was full of pictures and thoughts about her favorite shows and entertainers. It is almost like she wrote it to be remembered by. As for myself, I guess I had never considered the idea; I really don't think that anything I have would be on interest to anyone.

What I SHOULD do (but haven't) (1)

hta (7593) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045596)

make sure there's at least one set of master passwords available in a safe deposit box somewhere.
Instead, I keep all my data on systems that are possible to break into with a boot floppy and some imagination, and assume that my friends will help my family get the critical stuff if something happens to me.
It doesn't change much - they'd still need my friends' help to figure out where the data are, so overriding the lost passwords doesn't add that much to their problems.... and the data that I lock away under PGP-style security with NO backup key is the data that I don't want ANYONE to see (or stuff I don't care enough about to worry about whether it's recovered or not).
So much for an adequate level of security.

My solution (3, Funny)

bigbbri (265021) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045600)

I eat a vial with all my passwords. In my will I state that the Medical Examiner has to remove it from my gut. Every few days I pass it, wash it and swallow it again. :)

Da Vinci Code (2, Informative)

akiaki007 (148804) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045601)

That is EXACTLY what I am reminded of when I read this article. Perhaps that is what I would do. It'd be fun, and I'd get the last laugh if my relatives are too stupid to figure it all out. Plus, I love puzzles, so it would be a perfect way to have someone guess my password.

For those that don't know what I'm talking about, Da Vinci Code is a book by Dan Brown that has been in the news quite a bit since it hit the market a couple of year ago because of it's questioning the Christian religion. The book is a murder mystery (thriller?) and the way to solve it is to follow a fairly cryptic path of riddles and clues. The guy that dies (this is the first thing you read in the book) is the curator for the Louvre (sp) and he died in a very weird way (which is where the clues start pouring in)

Yes, actually (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045602)

As such, have you planned for the hereafter, and if so, how?"

Every password I have for a meaningful username (i.e., no GalaxisOnline [galaxisonline.com] ) is known by someone else--either my employer or my wife.

If I were to die tomorrow, my wife--as executor of my estate--would be able to post on my /., Livejournal, and webpage that I have passed away, and do with the myriad bits of data as she sees fit.

Any /.er who isn't married is, actually, in a very simliar situation. Create a way that your executor--whomever has to handle your affairs when you're dead, either your eldest adult child or your parents as a default--can get in and correct everything upon your death.

If you have enough meaningful wealth that you need real estate planing, just mention it to your lawyer when you write up a will. You might even want to pay him to be the executor of your estate, and entrust him with a "user is dead" password to retrieve data and take care of the regular "I'm dead" messages.

Sorry, gotta do it (2, Funny)

RustyTaco (301580) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045605)

When you get busted, we split your warez.

- RustyTaco

Easy (3, Funny)

0xC0FFEE (763100) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045606)

I don't have a life already and I'm doing just fine.

Not my data, but work's... (2, Insightful)

buffy (8100) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045607)

Since very few (eg: 2) here have the main access passwords to the systems (root, administrator, dba, etc...) I have printed up a copy of the password card and have it in a sealed envelope stored in a safe. My boss, the company's CFO has the combination to the safe to get at it should either of us get whacked.

I don't delude myself into thinking that someone cares about getting into my personal data, but I have another envelope in a safe at home, and the combination is left with my lawyer with instructions to give it to my beneficiary.

-buf

Last words sent on your behalf (1)

armyturtle (603867) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045608)

A bit off topic - but close enough... there used to be a website somewhere out there where you could pay a fee up front and have your "last words" sent to your loved ones after you were gone. I've tried briefly to google for it - but no luck. Anyone?

Not just death... (2, Insightful)

JessLeah (625838) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045613)

When you die, your passwords die with you. (Unless you have them written on a note stuck to the bottom of your keyboard ;) ) But if you get Alzheimer's, they also go...

Quite simple actually (1)

ParticleMan911 (688473) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045618)

You just make an electronic machine to store all your passwords. You write a program that runs on the machine, and every day you are required to type a secret password into it. If for some reason you don't type in the password one day, the machine assumes you've died and it emails your passwords to relatives whom you've previously organized in its databank. Simple as that!

It will take care of itself... (3, Interesting)

Rapier (25378) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045628)

I've had to do this for a friend of mine that died a few years ago. We kept in contact, and sometimes I would help him out with server issues, so luckily I had the root password to his server. After his passing, I took over the job of transfering his domains to my control, informing email contacts of his passing as emails came in, and took over maintenance of the server to keep his memory alive.

If you have family and friends that care, the data will stay alive. If you don't, then it will probably fade away and be forgotten.

Slow day (0, Offtopic)

dago (25724) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045629)

13 comments and still no citation of Linus Torvald !!!

For those who don't know it yet and want to find by themselves, please look at the linux kernel mailing list, on the 20/07/1996.

For those who want to do some karma whoring, please reply

The Great Modem in the Sky (3, Funny)

rock_climbing_guy (630276) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045630)

Don't worry, the Great Modem in the Sky will see to it that your data gets safe passage across the River Styx, so don't worry about your data.

Key Escrow not so evil (1)

btempleton (149110) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045635)

While Key Escrow was a nasty idea in the Clipper Chip debate, with Escrow by the government, it's a good idea if you want some or all of your data to be available to your heirs after you die.

One could use conventional (overseas) escrow agencies to take keys or key fragments with instructions to hand them over to your heirs or executor upon proof of your death.

Another would be the idea I recently blogged which I call Friendscrow [4brad.com] .

In this system, your key is distributed among your closest contacts, possibly without them even knowing it's happening. But when you die, you presume your heirs will be able to figure out who your contacts were and reassemble your key.

Of course you thus might want to have at least 2 keys. One for stuff you want your heirs to see, and one for stuff you definitely don't want them to see!

Read the bottom of the Slashdot for today's quote (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045637)

Hmm,

The quote on Slasdot todays says "Shit Happens". Hmm its kinda funny and ironic how this article talks about and what Slashdot quote says.

I am not making fun of this matter. I think its something we all have to think about. Since its impact each one of us. And I don't want to see any immortality or cyrogenic freezing crap. We all have to kick the bucket one day. And whatever happens to our data its important to know. Because there could be things and one day someone might need it. There is value in Data if it is valuable.

later

Data preservation (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045639)

As stated earlier, I think that the "natural selection of data" is a good thing. I keep a multimedia journal of significant events in my families life on my computer. Every 4 gigs I burn two copies to DVD, one in the bank and one at home. That's it, and only for my kids really. Anything else I doubt anyone would be interested in.

deadman's switch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045652)

I have a "deadman's switch" on my computer....if i don't log in and reset it every so often, it emails all of my friends that would not otherwise find out (net friends who i've never met irl or don't see often) after the emails are sent, all of my drives are formatted and unmounted nah, i'm just kidding...i've thought about doing this before, but i'm sure i would forget one day and everyone would think i died and all of my stuff would get wiped

My strategy (0, Offtopic)

ENOENT (25325) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045653)

The sum total of my wisdom has been posted on Slashdot as "Anonymous Coward".

I am glad to have been able to share my knowledge of petrification, hot grits, and celebrities with the world.

The answer is quite clear (2, Funny)

burgburgburg (574866) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045664)

Become very, very, very rich.
Adopt a favored staff member.
Post-mortem involuntary brain transplants (IANAL, but this could be deemed illegal in your jurisdiction. One of the places where that fabulous wealth will help to smooth things over.)
Use your new body as the plaything that it is.
Repeat after it is worn and haggard.

I just... (1)

j_cavera (758777) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045665)

use the password, "password", for everything. Just kidding. Non-encrypted CD backups locked in the filing cabinet. Nothing kept on-line for more than one month without being burned to CD. Boss knows where they are, and (worst case) physical locks can be broken. Not a perfect system, but a good balance and solves much of the "hit-by-a-bus" problem.

BTW, I code, not administer. It would be a different set of problems for those who do.

- Jim

What would be ideal... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9045673)

Set up a script that if I don't post on slashdot for a month, my account will automatically karma-bomb, much like this post will. Ah auto-trolling

Will (3, Insightful)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045677)

One can put all sorts of things into a Will for the executor to deal with.

Everyone over 18 should have one, not only does it protect what you own, you can reach out and exact revenge upon people after your death with a Will.

Someone always mean to you? Will them a Nickel as a fuck you. Someone who betrayed me is getting a "bright shiny quarter" from me because "that's all they are worth." Have a friend with questionable musical tastes? Will them some CDs. I've got a buddy who is getting my classic rock collection so he "listens to something else".

Have a beer, and dictate your will to someone, sign it and be protected. In many states if you kick without one, the State gets all your stuff.

Of course I have a plan . . . . (2, Funny)

theparanoidcynic (705438) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045683)

My data knows exactly what to do when I die. Oh my yes. Ever vigelant it stands waiting for word that I am no longer living. When that day come you will know. You will all know. MWHAHAHAHA!!!

Why Would You Care? (2, Insightful)

nlindstrom (244357) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045691)

Let's not forget the key component of this: you will be dead. Thus, why would you worry now about your data? It isn't like it can follow you, have an effect upon you, or in any way influence you once you're dead.

For those who might answer, "well, my pr0n collection would be embarassing," I gotta ask: how so? You'll be well past the point of caring.

The stuff that I bother to encrypt, and the data that I do worry about is that which could obstensibly get me in trouble while I'm alive. Once I die, I couldn't care less who looks through what.

My arrangements... (2, Informative)

Gerv (15179) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045699)

My passwords are all stored in Keyring for Palm OS [sourceforge.net] in my Treo (with the database backed up to a PC), and the master password is written down in a "useful information" appendix to the original copy of my will, along with my bank account details. My original will lives in the walk-in safe in my parents house, and both my executors know it's there.

The will contains a person nominated to take ownership of my machines and conclude my online affairs, including notifying interested parties and posting a message on my website [gerv.net] .

So don't worry guys, if the hit succeeds, you'll find out fairly quick ;-)

Gerv

What I am planning. (1)

Digital_Ebola (120316) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045701)

I am counting on my survivors to mirror my data. That has been my plan all along... that is why I take pictures, write, compose... Realizing that most of us won't make two specks of difference on this Earth it seems fitting to try and live like we can, and DOCUMENT everything... my legacy, however small will live on the net for eternity... hopefully.

My Solution (1)

karmatic (776420) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045702)

I've actually given this a great deal of thought, and although I'm still rather young, I do have a contingency plan in place.

Every 6 months, I have a web site I must login to, or a mass e-mail is sent out. I have instructions for different family and friends to carry out, in the event of my untimely demise. These include open-sourcing some software I sell, how to access my online bank accounts, setting DNS on my domains to point to a page informing the visitors to my sites what happened, and informing my online acquantances about my death.

(Yes, the system will page me and email me after 3 months, as a reminder. I definatly don't want those messages going out before I die).

How soon they forget (3, Informative)

poptones (653660) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045704)

From a parallel universe comes that will [pcworld.com] complete a set of tasks automatically [arsware.org] if you forget to "reset" it peridically. And I know it works, as one fellow forgot to reset it and delivered an unexpected last will and testament top the discussion board one day. That said, this same community recently lost a member to suicide [arstechnica.com] , and it's interesting to see how that person's online data becomes a virtual meeting place for the mourners.

SNL skit (-1)

shitface (121619) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045717)

Reminds me of some SNL skit for some fake company that comes and cleans up your personal space right after your death so no one finds those porno magazines and other stuff that you would not want your family finding. It ended by saying something like "You might be going to hell but there is no reason that your loved ones should know it" or something like that.

On a serious note, of course some personal websites live on like Rich Stevens site. If you it is an important site then it would be continued but how many useful personal sites are there? Ever go to Linus's personal site- it weak in content and meaningless to anyone that uses Linux. I think most personal sites are more like Linus's, weak in content and meaningless to whatever the person really does, but of course their are some useful personal sites like Stevens. With blogs and what not I guess this is becoming more of any issue. Every time I read some blogs at ximian I see a link to Ettore's and don't know what to feel.

dev/null (1)

Thinkit4 (745166) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045724)

I searched for it--it really hasn't been posted yet!

Personally.... (1)

lpangelrob2 (721920) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045726)

Personally, I'll set up a cron job, tarball my files, and in 100 years there'll be a remote secure copy to...

Wait, does anyone have Heaven's IP?

On another note, I found it ironic that the rotating quote at the bottom was "Sh*t happens".

cue jokes about people being buried with their computers

sign copylefts to FSF (2, Insightful)

sPaKr (116314) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045729)

Isnt this one of the major reasons why you should plan on signing over you copyright to FSF so they can make sure that its available and that the protections are ensured even after death. Another option would be to setup a family trust and put the code as IP in the trust, this allows for all you anti-GPL swine to retain your rights. Of course if your family trust votes to GPL your work about all you can do is roll over and fart dust.

www.archive.org (1)

coolerthanmilk (312282) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045733)

Okay, maybe expecting the Internet Archive [archive.org] to take care of my online presence for me in the event of my demise is a bit much, but it's not like I'll be wanting to change my site after my death.

And if it so happens that I change my mind and do want to change it after I'm dead, let's see if their fancy-schmancy network security can stop a ghost.

ascii art (1)

proj_2501 (78149) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045740)

here is a thread [google.com] from alt.ascii-art mentioning the passing of a regular. the following weeks were filled with everyone posting their archives of art that he had done, and now it's archived by google and he will live on forever!

Taking your data with you.... it *can* be done. (1)

Xilinx_guy (551837) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045741)

For those with a cryonics contract, the cryonics provider is more than happy to take delivery of a hard disk or 2 along with your cooling corpse. It will help quite a lot in reconstruction of your synaptic pathways if a lot of side data is available to cross-correlate and verify information extracted from destructive nanoscanning of the vitrified brain. In other words... GUARD YOUR DATA. Unless you want to be dead, buried, and forgotten, like billions of people before you. How boring. I myself carry a digital camera and voice recorder 24/7, and am accumulating about 40 Gbytes/year of personal data. I don't plan on forgetting who I was, or used to be. Encryption, of course, is required to keep my identity from being distributed widely, so a balance has to be made between security and safety. I had a rather nasty accident with an AES256 key earlier this year and lost 2 months of my life, along with some neat photo's and recordings. Oh well, live and learn.

But what about the data stored in your brain? (0)

Cryofan (194126) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045744)

That is the REALLY important data--like how it felt to get your first kiss, to drive your first car, to re-read your favorite book, etc etc.

What about maintaining THAT data after you die?

It may be feasible! Check out cryonics, the experimental science of cryopreservation, where as soon as possible after legal death, your brain is perfused with a cryopreservative (to minimize ice crystal formation), and then placed in liquid nitrogen, where all chemical reactions essentially cease.

Hundreds or even thousands of years from now, sophisticated neuroarchaeological techniques may be used to restore that data. And when that data is restored, you will be alive again. Nice work if you can get it, huh? And if revived in a society that is capable of such science, well, you are talking "virtual immortality", my friends.

see Alcor [alcor.org] for details....

Put them in your will (5, Insightful)

Telastyn (206146) | more than 10 years ago | (#9045747)

Why aren't your passwords in your legally protected last will and testament? A trusted 3rd party can then divulge the passwords on your passing, along with all your other 'property'.
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