The hardtracking staff has – in another venue – initiated the concept of Dead Blogging: Actually waiting for something to be over before writing about it.

But this weekend’s Wall Street Journal features a different sort of dead blogging:

 

Life and Death Online: Who Controls a Digital Legacy?

Alison Atkins died on July 27 at age 16. Online, her family is losing its hold on her memory.

Three days after the Toronto teen lost a long battle with a colon disease, her sister Jaclyn Atkins had a technician crack Alison’s password-protected MacBook Pro. Her family wanted access to Alison’s digital remains: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Yahoo and Hotmail accounts that were her lifeline when illness isolated her at home.

“Alison had pictures, messages and poems written that we wanted to keep to remember her,” says Ms. Atkins, 20, an undergraduate at the University of Toronto.

But using Alison’s passwords violated some of those websites’ terms of service, and possibly the law. None of the services allow the Atkins family—or any others—to retrieve the passwords of the deceased. Their argument is that it would violate Alison’s privacy.

Since then, Ms. Atkins’s attempts to recover Alison’s online life have begun falling apart. The websites that previously logged in automatically on Alison’s laptop began locking out Ms. Atkins as part of their standard security procedures. Her attempts to guess or reset her sister’s passwords backfired. Some of the accounts have been shutting themselves down.

 

Shutting yourself down.

That’s the issue, isn’t it?

As this New York Times piece put it:

What to Do in Cyberspace When You’re Dead

Suppose that just after you finish reading this article, you keel over, dead. Perhaps you’re ready for such an eventuality, in that you have prepared a will or made some sort of arrangement for the fate of the worldly goods you leave behind: financial assets, personal effects, belongings likely to have sentimental value to others and artifacts of your life like photographs, journals, letters. Even if you haven’t made such arrangements, all of this will get sorted one way or another, maybe in line with what you would have wanted, and maybe not.

But many of us, in these worst of circumstances, would also leave behind things that exist outside of those familiar categories. Suppose you blogged or tweeted about this article, or dashed off a Facebook status update, or uploaded a few snapshots from your iPhone to Flickr, and then logged off this mortal coil. It’s now taken for granted that the things we do online are reflections of who we are or announcements of who we wish to be. So what happens to this version of you that you’ve built with bits? Who will have access to which parts of it, and for how long?

 

Who will have access?

For how long?

Good questions.

No answers.

 


John R. Carroll, who also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town, is a media analyst and mass communication professor at Boston University.
John R. Carroll has 294 post(s) on Sneak Adtack