Your Digital Afterlife 


Soon we'll celebrate Memorial Day in the U.S., a time to honor the people we've lost and the ones we'll always remember. Keeping the memory of our loved ones alive is one thing; keeping their personal, private data and information safe, is quite another. 



What to do with a loved one's digital footprint is not something we easily consider during the grieving process. Nor is it likely something we ever will. That's why it's important for each of us to take charge of our digital afterlife now, while we are still kickin'. 


Read on for tips on how to do exactly that, as well as a few other items on the latest privacy newsmakers and resources. 


 Google Death Manager


It may sound cryptic, but Google's Death Manager tool (it's actually called an "Inactive Account Manager") is quite a blessing. For each of the properties to which the Internet giant has access (think Google+, YouTube, Gmail, etc.), Google can act as your personal data trustee upon notification of your death. 


Google essentially gives you two options: 1) Allow Google to delete your data; or 2) allow trusted contacts access to your accounts.


Enabling the feature takes less than two minutes (assuming you won't have to wrestle with who to choose as your "trusted contact."). If you're a Google user, I highly recommend taking these two minutes to get it set up. 



Who'll Be Next?


Google's move to create an inactive account manager is very smart. It begs the question: Which companies will follow suit? Certainly, with the high value being placed on consumer data these days, there is an internal, business-case motivator for companies to keep their data files scrubbed.


Facebook and Twitter have made some strides in regard to managing information and accounts following the death of a user. Here's an article on how you can post a status update or a Tweet after you die. Here's another on what is currently available to the family and friends of Facebook users who pass. As you'll learn after reading the article, there's certainly room for innovation.   


Here are three more resources on how to manage the digital property after the death or incapacitation of a loved one: 


Particularly for families who lose loved ones suddenly, the inability to access their personal files has caused quite a bit of trauma. Google and other companies looking to ease that pain is hopefully the beginning of a healthy trend in privacy management.


There are also services that provide specific social media and other online site management services following death. I've not looked into any of them closely. Considering, however, most social media sites, and other types of online accounts (e.g., retail sites, blogs, etc.) don' t yet offer after-death options, they would be good for you to consider. Here are a few of them:

Here's an article I wrote a few years ago  on the subject of privacy after death. The issues are still the same today. Would love to hear your thoughts on the topic, as well. Drop me a note anytime!




Your 'Likes' Lead to Snap Judgments, False Assumptions


Much of our online behavior leaves a trail. Sometimes we are aware of it; sometimes we aren't. "Liking" on Facebook (or "+1-ing" on Google+, and all the other clickable options allowing you to show your appreciation for posts) may be one such behavior done with reckless abandon. Often a user will "Like" something only because a friend asked him or her to. These users may not be aware of the picture those "Likes" can paint.


The Wall Street Journal has written a fantastic article that may change mindless "Liking" behavior somewhat. The article highlights a recent study that revealed our "Likes" provide an incredible amount of insight into our private lives. Individually, the "Likes" may not reveal much; but monitored and analyzed overtime, they can shed light on very personal, private details. One example:


The researchers found that "Likes" for Austin, Texas; "Big Momma" movies; and the statement "Relationships Should Be Between Two People Not the Whole Universe" were among a set of 10 choices that, combined, predicted drug use.


Whoa. How's that for crazy assumptions? Or scarier, how's that for accuracy? You can bet this research is only the beginning and that the algorithms these researchers used are soon to be commercialized and sold to any number of entities... with any number of intentions.


The takeaway for now? Watch what you "Like," and keep up-to-date on the privacy settings that can prevent others from tracking your online trail. 



If you use the Chrome browser, you can go "incognito" and hide many of your online activity trails  automatically collected. To do this, press <CTRL><SHIFT><N>. See this Google resource for more information.  



Protecting Privacy While at Work


I get a lot of questions about protecting privacy at work; not only in regard to personal privacy, but also in regard to that of co-workers and customers. This is the first in a series of monthly tips I'll share on workplace privacy. 


Are you storing personal information on your own computer or digital storage device that you also use for work purposes? If so, here are four tips to protect you, your employer and your customers:


  1. Understand whether or not storing personal files is allowed by your employer's information security and privacy policies. If you haven't read your policies for a while, take a few minutes and read them now.
  2. Encrypt any personal information on your computer and storage devices. Stuff happens! You could lose them, or have them stolen, at the most unexpected times. Full disk encryption is typically the easiest and most effective.
  3. Get a data wipe tool. Even if your data is encrypted, it is good to remove the data if it is in someone else's hands; especially a crook's.
  4. Regularly remove personal information (e.g. personal emails, spreadsheets, etc.) from your computer and storage devices after you no longer need it. 

10 Great Online Privacy Guides


I've stumbled across so many great privacy resources online lately, that I just can't keep them to myself. Here's a good collection for you to consider bookmarking.


  1. Facebook Privacy Settings Guide   
  2. 4 Tips to Keep Your Privacy on LinkedIn 
  3. Security and Privacy Tips for Twitter Users 
  4. 3 Tips to Keep Your Privacy on Twitter 
  5. 3 Tips to Keep Your Privacy on Google+ 
  6. Snap Chat Privacy Issues 
  7. Help Avoid Instant Message Viruses 
  8. Using Instant Messaging and Chat Rooms Safely 
  9. A Renter's Guide to Privacy: Top 5 Privacy Tips for Renters 
  10. 10 Online Privacy Tips for Librarians (that can be used by anyone)  

Term of the Month




Historically, degauss meant to remove unwanted magnetism from a television or monitor to correct color disturbance. However, with the advent of computer use, the term was adopted by information technology folks and redefined to mean the removal of data from digital storage devices.  


Removing data via degaussing is done in two ways: AC and DC. In both methods, the degausser generates a magnetic field powerful enough to remove data from any magnetic storage device. 


Before you throw away or sell your computers and digital storage devices, you can use a degausser to irreversibly remove your data...a very good idea!

Speaking Time!


I have some speaking events coming up; I'd love to meet you there! Here they are for you to consider:



As I prepare to hit "Send" on this monthly tips message, it's a beautiful 71 degrees outside my window. The birds are chirping, the trees are budding, and the grass is turning an almost neon green. Indeed, my home state of Iowa, USA, is gorgeous this time of year. I hope you're experiencing the same wherever your work and family has taken you.


Enjoy life! And I wish you lovely, cherished memories this Memorial Day. 


 Thanks for reading, and I'll be back in touch in a month!



The Privacy Professor®
Rebecca Herold & Associates, LLC
Mobile: 515.491.1564, Business: 515.996.2199