Our digital legacy is something we probably don’t think about much as we accumulate data. Our data grows as we use our favorite social media platforms, cloud storage services, and consume other digital services.
Truly, we don’t think about our digital legacy much. As a result, we fail to recognize the importance of organizing it before our time comes.
For that reason, we’ll tell you all you need to know about digital legacy. Simultaneously, we’ll teach you how to set up your contacts on platforms offering legacy contact features.
- What Is Digital Legacy?
- How to Organize Your Digital Legacy
- How to Assign Legacy Contacts on macOS 12.1
- How to Assign Legacy Contacts in iOS and iPadOS 15.2
- How to Set Up Google Inactive Account Manager on Desktop
- Microsoft's Next of Kin Process
- Account Memorialization on Instagram
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Digital Legacy?
The Digital Legacy Association defines digital legacy as the “available information about someone following their death.” Further, this entity states that your digital legacy is made up of the following:
- Interactions you made on social media platforms
- Data you created and uploaded
- Your accounts on different applications and
- Websites, blogs, and many others
- Data related to you that were uploaded by other people
To sum up, your digital legacy is everything you put on the web — pictures, messages with your friends, comments on YouTube videos — everything that’s under your name or has your name on them.
Who Is the Digital Legacy Association?
The Digital Legacy Association is the only professional entity created for taking care of digital assets and digital legacy. Mainly, it functions to ensure that people’s wishes are granted in both the physical and digital realms following their deaths.
The association provides training resources, best practices, and organizes annual conferences. These resources are for informing the general public, governmental organizations, social networks, charities, and other organizations about proper ways to handle the digital legacy and digital assets of individuals and organizations.
How to Organize Your Digital Legacy
In the ideal world, organizing your digital legacy should be a walk in the park. And yet, very few platforms offer easy ways to organize your digital legacy. For instance, having full ownership of an account doesn’t mean you can assign legacy contacts on specific platforms.
On the contrary, companies such as Apple and Facebook let you assign legacy contacts without tedious processes that involve court orders and long calls with support teams.
How to Assign Legacy Contacts on macOS 12.1
Using Apple products means you store data on iCloud. This includes backups of your contacts, photos, messages, device settings, apps, and many more.
Before Apple released the Digital Legacy Program in December 2021, relatives of deceased iCloud users had no way to gain access to their deceased loved ones’ iCloud data without a court order. Unsurprisingly, even a court order didn’t guarantee access.
Now that you have an easy way to arrange your digital legacy with Apple, here’s how to assign legacy contacts on macOS 12.1.
- Head over to “System Preferences” or “Settings” with the gear icon.
- Click on “Apple ID”.
- Go to “Password & Security” and click on “Manage…” to the right of “Legacy Contact.”
- Click “Add…” on the next screen.
- Read the written information about what adding a legacy contact means for your digital legacy and click “Add Legacy Contact.”
- Next, you can either choose someone from your account’s Family Sharing or add someone else not included.
- To add someone currently not on your “Add Legacy Contact” screen, click on “Choose Someone Else,” pick their contact information from the list, and click the “Next” button after seeing a blue check under your chosen contact’s image.
- Make sure to read and understand what your legacy contact is allowed to do with your account after your death. After reading, click “Continue.” Your legacy contact will have access to data in your iCloud such as photos, messages, notes, files, contacts, calendar, apps, backups, and many more. However, they will not have access to your iCloud Keychain or any licensed media.
- Choose how you want to share your access key with your trusted contact. You can share it with a message or print a physical copy.
- If you chose to “Send a Message” to share your access key, you can send the template or edit the message.
If you chose “Print a Copy,” you will get a QR code with an alphanumeric code below it and some information that will be helpful to your legacy contact in the future.
- After sending a message to your contact or successfully printing a copy of your access key, you will get to the “Legacy Contact Added” screen that tells you how your legacy contact can verify the information with Apple. Make sure to update or correct your birthdate to prevent verification issues.
You can assign up to five legacy contacts. However, these contacts can opt out of your legacy contacts list, which automatically revokes all legacy access granted to them.
Your legacy contacts can request access from Apple’s Digital Legacy web page.
How to Assign Legacy Contacts in iOS and iPadOS 15.2
- On your iPhone’s home screen, tap on “Settings” with the gear icon.
- Tap on “[Your Name] Apple ID, iCloud, Media & Purchases.”
- Next, tap “Password & Security.”
- On the next screen, tap “Legacy Contact.”
- Tap on the “+ Add Legacy Contact” button to start the process.
- Next, read and understand what it means to assign someone as your legacy contact and tap “Add Legacy Contact.”
- The next screen will show you the names and photos of people in your Family Sharing. If the person you want to assign as your legacy contact isn’t listed, tap on “Choose Someone Else” and select from your contacts.
- Selecting a contact will lead you to the screen that tells you what data will be accessible to your legacy contact. Click “Continue” after reading.
- You may choose to notify your legacy contact in two ways: with a text message or by giving them a printed copy of the access key.
- If you opted for sending a message, you can edit the text’s body.
- Finally, you’ll get a prompt saying your legacy contact has been added and that they’ll be asked for your birthday to verify the information and gain access. With that, make sure to update your birthday and let your legacy contact know.
How to Set Up Google Inactive Account Manager on Desktop
Google allows its users to share parts of their account’s data or notify an elected contact if once Google detects inactivity. Here’s how you can set up your Google account’s Inactive Account Manager:
- Go to your Inactive Account Manager page and click on the blue “Start” button.
- Next, choose what happens to your Google account’s data once the Inactive Account Manager fires. Select when you want it to fire, and where you want to be contacted for verification before Google takes action.
- Next, add the email addresses of the people you want Google to notify if your Google account goes inactive. In this step, you can also set an autoreply that will inform whoever emails you that you’re no longer using your Google account.
- To add a contact person, click on “Add Person,” type down their email, and click “Next.” You can select up to 10 people and set up how much of your data you want to share with each of them.
- In the next screen, choose from the list of data you can share with your nominated contact. You can choose to share everything or choose specific ones. Simply tick the items you want to share and leave the ones you don’t unticked. After selecting items, click “Next.”
- The next screen confirms the selection you made. You can also add your contact’s phone number to verify their identity and get access to a copy of the data you selected to share after the Inactive Account Manager fires. If you’d like, you can add a personal message on the same screen.
- Next, hit “Save.” You should see their email under the “Choose who to notify & what to share” tab. Verify if the email you added is correct, then click on the blue “Next” button.
- On the next screen, decide if you want your inactive account deleted or not. If you want your account deleted, click on the switch next to “Yes, delete my inactive Google Account.” Otherwise, leave it off and grayed out.
After reading what it means to have your inactive Google account deleted, click on the blue “Review Plan” button.
- On the next screen, you’ll see an overview of your Inactive Account Manager setup. If you’re sure about the current setup, click on the blue “Confirm Plan” button.
- Finally, you’ll get back to the Inactive Account Manager’s main screen. Here, you can turn off your plan and edit other settings you set up in the previous steps anytime.
Microsoft’s Next of Kin Process
Microsoft has a process that can help your loved ones gain access to your Microsoft data after your death. Their Next of Kin Process will give your relatives access to your account data such as emails, attachments, contacts, on a physical drive.
However, the Next of Kin Process isn’t as straightforward as Google’s Inactive Account Manager. For your next of kin to get a copy of your data with Microsoft, they have to provide the following to firstname.lastname@example.org:
- Documentation verifying your death or incapacity
- Proof of relationship: Next of kin, executor of benefactor of your estate, or power of attorney
Account Memorialization on Instagram
This may sound surprising, but Instagram doesn’t have the same legacy contact option as Facebook and Apple. Instead, Instagram only allows people to report your death to them to get your account memorialized or request its removal.
Further, their report and request will only be granted after the person who reported your death provides appropriate documentation or links to an obituary or news article. They won’t get a copy of your Instagram data or get your Instagram account log-in details after their request is approved.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are legacy contacts limited to immediate family members?
No. Facebook and Apple’s policy on assigning legacy contacts doesn’t limit your choices to your immediate family. As long as your contact is on your Facebook friend list, Family Sharing, or contacts, and they agree to become your legacy contact, you can add them even if they’re not a member of your immediate family.
2. Will documentation be required for your legacy contacts to gain access?
After your next of kin informs Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, or Instagram of your death with proper documentation, both platforms will review the request to memorialize your account. Once your account is memorialized, your contacts can access your data on platforms that have them as your legacy contacts.
Do note that in Apple’s Digital Legacy Program, your legacy contact shall have the access key provided when you assigned them to get into your account.
3. Will providing documentation guarantee access?
Unfortunately, every documentation and request has to go under strict review. On top of that, those reviews don’t always end in the favor of people requesting access to your data after your death. This is to protect your interests and to make sure all documentation submitted by your next of kin, benefactors, or executors is valid.
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