Dealing With Your Digital Footprint

A digital footprint is the sum of all the data and personal information that’s left behind by an individual on all utilized online services and websites. Most individuals are not aware of the magnitude and scope of their digital footprint and, as a result, the incredible responsibility faced by loved ones tasked with managing this footprint after death. Dealing with a digital footprint is an essential part of managing a legacy. Unfortunately, it is also a relatively new area that comes with its own unique set of challenges

Why is dealing with a digital footprint so important?

In today’s society, an increasing number of transactions take place online. Individuals are forced to create more and more digital accounts, as a growing number of services abandon paper trails and migrate toward an exclusively online basis. In addition to this, individuals are placing an unprecedented amount of digital data on social media and photo sharing services. All of this information is stored online, and remains available indefinitely, even after an individual passes on. That is, unless a loved one takes on the responsibility of managing its removal.

The concept of dealing with a digital footprint is still a relatively novel one. As such, few services have adequate protocols for transferring accounts or divulging login information in the case of a user’s death. Additionally, while traditional end-of-life conversations often cover difficult subjects such as designating power of attorney, planning a will, and choosing a provider for ceremony and cremation services, the concept of a digital footprint is often left unmentioned.

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Easing the burden of dealing with a digital footprint

One way to assist grieving loved ones with the challenge of managing a digital legacy is to prepare a list of all online accounts and their passwords. Online accounts often include, but are not limited to, e-mail accounts, social media accounts, retail websites, online banking accounts, online service accounts, and online subscriptions. In addition to this list, any instructions regarding closure or transferring of digital media and data should be included.

One benefit of living in an increasingly electronic world is that many digital resources have begun to arise with the purpose of assisting subscribers with handling a digital footprint. Digital vaults, also known as digital legacy management tools, allow users to securely stow digital account login information. The information is retained until the user passes on, at which time the information is transferred to a trusted love one designated ahead of time.

In many cases, a loved one passes on without having left any instructions regarding their online presence. Unfortunately, a number of online accounts are not transferable, and those that are may require proof of death before disclosing a password. In this case, it’s important to discuss options with the departed’s relatives before settling on a course of action. Leaving some accounts untouched might be acceptable. Accounts that contain credit card information, subscription accounts, and online service accounts, however, should be closed and, if possible, deleted. The attention to pre-planning will be greatly appreciated by remaining loved ones.

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Comments 3 comments

Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 23 months ago from The Beautiful South

You know I have been giving this some thought lately! Like if something happened to me the things I have here and there and I have thousands of photos which possibly someone could benefit from one day and I am leaving accts and passwords so they can be retrieved. Bet many have never thought of this! Excellent article. Up and sharing.


Better Yourself profile image

Better Yourself 23 months ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks Jackie, glad it was helpful!


Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

Jo_Goldsmith11 20 months ago

This was really informative. I enjoyed reading this and I learned a lot.

Great writing! Up +++ and Shared. Nice to meet you. :-)

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