Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dead Online

Had an interesting discussion during class the other day. We were talking about online gaming and I mentioned the case of Shawn Wooley, the 21-year old who killed himself over Everquest back in 2002.

It always made me wonder how word would get out about things like this. If you are part of online communities (aside from Facebook, where people can post information to the "wall"), how do people find out? When my aunt Judy died in 2000, I remember the hassle of having to get copies of a death certificate to places like banks, retirement companies, health insurance providers, and other places, and with the advent of the Web, this becomes even more complicated. How do you get access to Web sites and other accounts if someone dies? Are things like World of Warcraft, Amazon Associates, Paperback Swap, and other sites things you would want people to have access to after you died? At this point, a World of Warcraft (or Starcraft, or whatever) account might actually be something people would put in their will...a site like Amazon Associates or Google AdWords might have unclaimed income (and continue to generate income). No one is going to change their will every time they change their passwords, so there has to be some other solution.

This is one of those areas where no one has *the* solution yet, so here are a few sites that I have read about.

First of all, there is Death Switch. Death Switch will send you a message at various times and if you do not click on the link and enter a password, they will assume you are dead. At that point, you can have the site email out your usernames, passwords, etc. that you might want your wife, children, friends, etc. to have. Of course, if you take a really long vacation, or if you die and forget to change the email address of the recipient, there are problems!

Another way to do this is to use Legacy Locker. This is a site that is similar in concept, without the replying to emails. The person would assign two verifiers to verify that they weredead, and if so, the information stored on the site would then be released. Of course, there are security issues there as well, if the two verifiers are people who conspire against you!

A little morbid, to be certain, but it's interesting that companies have found ways to make money off of this.

They both have very limited free versions. For the paid versions, Legacy Locker costs $29.99 a year at this point (or a one-time, $299.99 fee), and Death Switch is $19.95 a year.

No comments: