A very small number of companies are starting to emerge offering services which consider the safety of a person’s ‘digital assets.’ Mostly, these companies have been designed with the tag-line ‘safety deposit.’ They focus on the storage of one’s digital self and transfer of one’s digital estate to next of kin once you have passed on.
‘Legacy Locker’ is one such fledgling company who states “most of the websites we all use on a regular basis have little-to-no provisions in place for a loved one to transfer account information in a time of need. In some cases you might even need to get a lawyer involved just to access an email inbox. Your digital legacy needs protection, and we've built Legacy Locker to help solve these problems.”
Vitallock is another such company, still in its alpha phase; it is expected to be launched in spring 2009. They promise their service to be the “Swiss Bank Escrow of Digital Assets”. It is stated within a video on the website that “this is just a logical extension of the economic times, the relevant issues that have come out of…us moving towards a knowledge economy.”
DeathSwitch.com claims to be “bridging mortality”. This company works through a ‘death switch’ system. “A death switch is an automated system that prompts you for your password on a regular schedule to make sure you are alive.” If you do not respond after a number of repeated attempts then a predetermined set of actions is undertaken on your behalf, e.g. to inform a member of the family of your death, and about your the transfer of your digital assets.
Afterlife.org, contrasting with highly commercial companies such as ‘Vitallock’ and ‘Legacy Locker’, is concerned with digital heritage. It is a “not-for-profit organization whose mission is to archive Web sites after their authors die and can no longer support them.” The site is run on purely voluntary basis and is “currently being developed so there is very little information at this site. As volunteers help to build AfterLife.org, the Web site will progress in content and design.”
The emergence of these companies highlights the beginnings of awareness, towards the issue of digital death and indeed towards the need to ‘take care’ of ones digital assets.