Unless you're like me and obsessed with the morbid, you may never have wondered what happens to your online life when your real life ends. What happens to your Gmail account? How do your survivors de-activate your PayPal account? Perhaps most vexing: Who updates your Facebook page and alerts far-flung friends to stop sending you cupcakes?
Turns out somebody had this very thought and decided to create a company to take care of such things. Legacy Locker, an online service announcing itself on Tuesday, is a sort of "safety deposit box" for your online world. Jeremy Toeman, co-founder of the San Francisco start-up, told reporters that this service will prove helpful to bereaved who can rest easy that their deceased loved ones' online profiles, relying on it to alert all the pertinent places instead of having to deal with it themselves.
It's not a bad idea. Although technology is supposed to make life easier for us, it often makes it much more complicated. Facebook, for example, came under fire recently when it didn't respond immediately after a man's account got hacked and several of his friends were scammed for money. The man realized the only way to contact Facebook was through an email address, and days went by before the company acknowledged the scam and took action. Have you ever tried to get into an account, but forgot your password, but also changed email addresses, so they can't send you a new one....etc. etc. etc.
Can you imagine having to make a list of all the passwords, all of the accounts possibly holding credit card numbers and other personal infomation, and then having to contact each one, explaining the situation? It sounds pretty nightmarish to me. And darn nigh impossible if bereaved.
That said, It awaits to be seen how nimble this service can make itself. If you provide it with a list of your online activities and accounts, what kind of privacy protection does it promise? I mean, do you really want your next of kin trying to turn off your Triple X Busty Babes membership? Are they really going to venture into Second Life and tell your "family" there that Thor Beast Killer is no more?
We'll just have to wait and see. Is this the online equivalent of buying a graveyard plot? Probably. But as our online lives and our regular ones continue to merge, services like this will probably become as standard as setting up your first eBay account.
Legacy Locker will go, er, live, in April, and will be marketed primarily through estate planners. Memberships will cost $30 a year or $300 for lifetime use. I wonder if Legacy Locker, after deactivating everything for you, will then turn off the lights on itself, as its final act in your service.
Facebook status update: So I've died...