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Beyond the Grave

Growing numbers of Brits leaving internet passwords in wills

A British survey says people are leaving their internet passwords for their loved ones to use, as lawyers encourage the practice.

ONE IN TEN British people are leaving their internet passwords in their wills, according to a new survey, by people hoping to allow their loved ones to gain access to their data.

The survey compiled by the University of London, on behalf of cloud computing firm Rackspace, found that people were leaving their passwords for accounts on the likes of Facebook, Twitter, PayPal and Flickr in their wills.

The idea behind the practice was that if the person was to pass away, their personal data would be available to their loved ones to be curated and safeguarded.

The Daily Telegraph explained the new phenomenon by pointing to Facebook profiles which are initially treated as a form of digital shrine to people who have passed away, but which later become a haven for spam content.

Solicitor Matthew Strain told Sky News that people were become more mindful of their online personae as more and more of their belongings – like photos, music or documents – were being stored ‘in the cloud’.

“We have started to advise clients on the topic of digital inheritance as it is something people should be thinking, and doing something about as part of the provisions in their will,” he said.

The Times of London estimated that with Facebook’s current active user base of around 700 million, around 1.8 million users would be likely to die each year.

It said Facebook does not automatically release the password details of a deceased person’s account to their next of kin, but does offer the the option for the profile to be “memorialised”.

In that circumstance, the password details are not shared, but any interaction with the account is frozen, with its public profile preserved indefinitely.

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