Preserving My Digital Legacy

Don Woods
Don Woods
Aug 5, 2018 · 5 min read
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Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

No, this isn’t about Westworld (Spoiler! 😂). I’ll save that for another post. This is about real life — my life — and it’s a little morbid, but important. Especially since people tend to avoid these sorts of conversations.

I’m officially a family man now. My wife and I have been married for almost three years, and three months ago, we brought our son into the world. Since we found out that Krista was pregnant, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to have a legacy with so much of our lives online or just in nonphysical media. For example, how will our son come to understand himself and his parents in a world in which we’ll take thousands (tens of thousands) of pictures and videos of him with ease? That’s something that my generation didn’t have. Sure, we have photos (many of mine are Polaroids…yeah I’m old) and some lucky folks have camcorder footage (yes…👴🏽), but very few of us have the quantity or quality that the kids born around the end of the last decade and beyond have. Furthermore, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter provide other interesting ways for our son to understand his parents.

With that, what happens to all of my digital files and accounts if I meet an early demise? How will my wife access everything given that it’s all behind passwords and two-factor authentication (2FA)? What might our son be interested in seeing at some point? On a practical level, how can I make sure that access to all the financial stuff is smooth?

So I’ve been working on my digital legacy plans, so to speak — all of the ways to cover all of the memories and accounts if something bad happens. Here are a few things that we’re doing so far.

The first part of the digital legacy plan was simple, but brilliant (and not our idea): our son has an email address. I got the idea from a friend and his wife shortly after they became parents. It’s a great repository for messages and pictures from us as well as family and friends. It brings me much joy to write an email to future Dash about things happening in his life right now.

But even this simple solution proposes a challenge when doing the “unfortunate event” contingency check. How would Dash access potentially years of stuff from us if something bad happens? Krista also has the password to the account, but there’s still 2FA. Well, one solution is that I’m able to add multiple phone numbers to Dash’s Gmail account for 2FA backup. So, I can add trusted folks to access his account if we can’t. And in testing Account Recovery (the “Forgot Password” link), I get a sense of how things could work if he or Krista wanted to get into the account without me.

Then there’s my own email account. Well, it turns out that Google has an Inactive Account Manager feature where you can designate what happens to all of your Google stuff if your account is inactive for a predetermined amount of time (3, 6, 12, or 18 months). You can pick up to 10 people who will be able to download your stuff, and you can choose which Google services each person can access. Google has done a real job of capturing everything here including Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Photos, YouTube, and even your old Google Plus stuff!

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The wife and I share an iCloud album with friends and family as well as one between the two of us. If nothing else, there’s a set of favorite photos of our son that will exist on various devices across many people.

Also, as I noted above, Google Photos is included in Google’s Inactive Account Manager. I don’t use Google Photos that much, but this is another reason why I should consider backing up everything there.

In additional to that, all of our photos are backed up on iCloud, my computer, and external SSD drives. Of course, there’s a question of how to get into all those places in an unfortunate event…

Right now, I haven’t figure this one out besides just sharing my MacOS password with some trusted people. Another solution could be getting a couple YubiKeys. YubiKey is a brand of USB key devices that can be used to log into your computer or to provide the second half of 2FA for multiple services. So, a YubiKey would be useful not just for accessing my files, but also, getting into my accounts online including Dash’s email. The keys are quite affordable. In fact, for $5, I can get a YubiKey 4 ($40 value) as well as a yearlong subscription to Wired (you know…gotta fuel the nerd). With that deal, I’m pretty sure that I’ll test it out soon. More updates to come.

Also, as mentioned above, I back up everything on a couple of SSD drives. I haven’t set up a cloud backup solution yet, and I should. I’ll probably look at BackBlaze since it gets great reviews. And then, I would have to give my family ways to access my cloud/online accounts. Cue the next section…

I manage my passwords through 1Password (note: if you’re not using a password manager yet, you should consider it., even if the idea of having all of your passwords in one place freaks you out.). One way to make sure that everything is accessible by my family is to share my 1Pass master password with them every time I update it. YubiKeys could be useful in this scenario too, although, 1Password doesn’t have a direct integration supported by YubiKey. However, LastPass, KeePass, and Dashlane do.

Also, a more specific case, but Facebook has a feature to allows users to set up a Legacy Contact who can manage your FB presence if something happens. So don’t fear, Krista is set up to promote my articles and Michigan football on my behalf when I’m gone 😁.

As you can see, I have some things figured out, and I’m working on others. As I test different options, I’ll update this post and maybe write some subsequent stories about it all. In the meantime, I would love to hear how you manage this stuff, so feel free to comment below!

Why you should use a password manager
How to use a password manager (and why you really should) | The Verge
Get a Password Manager. Here’s Where to Start | WIRED
Why You Should Consider a Password Manager | Wall Street Journal

How to Set Up and Use a YubiKey for Online Security | WIRED

Cloud Backup Service Reviews
How-To Geek
PC Mag

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