Monday, January 25, 2016

Here's why you must share your passwords before you die

You've got to feel for Peggy Bush. The 72-year-old Victoria, B.C. resident lost her husband, David, to lung cancer last August. The couple owned an iPad, and she continued to use it after his death to play games.

She ran into problems after the app stopped working, and she tried to reinstall it. While she knew the four-digit PIN used to unlock the device, she was unable to log into her late husband's Apple ID - and you need the Apple ID in order to install or update software on the tablet. Without it, you've got a very expensive doorstopper.

Apple asked for a death certificate, along with her late husband's will - in which he left everything to her. After she provided these to the company, Apple balked, and insisted she also provide a court order before they'd let her into the account.

While Apple's terms of use are pretty clear - users "agree that your Account is non-transferable and that any rights to your Apple ID or Content within your Account terminate upon your death. Upon receipt of a copy of a death certificate your Account may be terminated and all Content within your Account deleted" - the company has granted access to surviving family members in past cases, including relatives of a U.S. Marine killed in Iraq in 2004 who won a court case to regain access to his account.

After the issue spilled into mainstream and social media last week, Apple backed down and allowed her to reset the password and access the account - no court order required.

The bottom line: The issue of so-called "digital legacy" (what happens to our digital accounts after we die) is only going to become more mainstream as we shift more of our lives online. Facebook was ahead of the curve when it instituted "Memorialized" accounts last year, along with specific rules and processes for family members/loved ones to follow in case someone died without leaving express instructions in advance. Those kinds of frameworks would have saved folks like Peggy Bush a lot of trouble and heartache.

But framework or no framework, this case serves as a reminder to us all that it's high time we have certain conversations with our loved ones about how our digital assets are to be handled after we're gone. No one ever wants to talk about stuff like this, but we need to, now more than ever.


Tabor said...

The issue is we never plan on dying.

sage said...

There are about 1/2 dozen folks on my facebook friend's list who are no longer with us and it is sad when their birthdays come and go.