Look after your digital legacy

Image: Collage poster of family photographs; Snappy Snaps

Steve Bonnici, owner of Chiswick Compters, has helped many people in Chiswick over the years with IT problems. When he faced a personal tragedy of his own he realised how important it was for people to know they can leave access to their photographs and data to their loved ones when they die, which otherwise may be lost. He explains how in his guest blog for The Chiswick Calendar.

Why your digital legacy is important

By Steve Bonnici

Our phones, tablets and computers are especially important to us as they contain so much information about our daily lives but when our time is up on this planet those devices become important to the loved ones that we leave behind.

Sadly for me, this became a reality when my youngest daughter Jo died on Boxing Day 2023 without warning. Her devices suddenly became my problem, and it was beyond important that I recovered her photos.

Her other data, documents and chat histories were less important to me, but I had to have her photos. Not just for me but for my other daughter and her children.

Living in the digital age now means that we rarely print photos, and these memories are all stored electronically on servers around the world, accessible from our devices with a login which makes it much harder for loved ones to access them when we are gone.

Image: Family photographs old style

I still have a drawer full of photos, cine film and other mementos from my late mother and father. After they had both passed, they brought a particular pleasure for my sister and myself as we trawled through cupboards and drawers looking through photo albums at their lives gone by.

“Who’s that mum is with?” or “ah, don’t you look young there!”

I am in a fortunate position in that I was able to collect my daughter’s devices from her rented flat and take ownership of them. There were very few photos on her laptop, which I had given her only two months before so that she could do some additional studying as a nurse.

All my daughter’s photos were stored on her Facebook account, as so many people do today. First of all, I had to crack her Android phone’s passcode so I could access her Facebook account. From there I was able to change the password, which allowed me to ask Facebook for a complete download of all her data.

It took a couple of days but now I have it available to pass on my other daughter and my grandchildren.

Image: Steve Bonnici with his two daughters – Jo on the right

My expertise in my job enabled me to access her photographs, but what do you do if you don’t know your loved one’s password, or can’t work it out?

If you ask Facebook to recover another person’s data, they will want a court order which in most, if not all cases, will be impossible to obtain.

If Facebook find out that one of their account holders has died, they will simply lock the account; no logins will be allowed and it will become a memorial account.

You would be able to download one photo at a time, but it would have taken me the rest of my life to download the 12,500 photos from my daughter’s profile.

So, what can you do? One answer is that you could maintain a password manager to record those login details. There are plenty out there and the one I use is called Safe In Cloud which enables you to access your passwords from any device via a cloud account like Dropbox or OneDrive.

You must set up a master password, which you can leave in your will or some other way to someone who will then have complete access to your login details that you store within that password manager. However, with the ever-changing landscape on passwords, two factor authentication and passkeys this solution may not be around for as long as you are.

Apple have introduced a Legacy Contact from IOS 15.2, IOSPad 15.02 and to macOS 12.1 Monterey. It is simple to use. You nominate someone within the settings to be your Legacy Contact and when the time comes they must provide the access key that was generated when you created the legacy contact along with a death certificate to gain access.

They do not even have to have an AppleID, as a new one will be given to them when they take over your data. You can easily Google this or we can help if you need us.

Google has a similar resource called Inactive Account Manager. It works very differently to Apple, but you simply nominate someone to receive access to your nominated data after a period of inactivity on your Google devices. Just do not set it too short, as you might find when you come back from that two-week holiday in the Caribbean that your contact has been looking through all your data.

Your digital legacy has become a bit of an issue, with most people still not giving it much consideration as they would in respect of say what type of coffin you would like or what music you want played as you make your final journey.

I would suggest it is more important to leave a digital legacy, as if you do not leave your wishes for your funeral in a will or similar way, then your loved ones will make those decisions for you, but if you do not arrange your digital legacy then that may be the end of those stored memories.

The Digital Legacy, as it has become known as, was thought of way before I came across it, and as far back as 2015 when The Digital Legacy Association was formed (www.digitallegacyassociation.org).

Primarily they provide training and advice for end-of-life carers and hospices, but it also host an excellent selection of guides and tutorials for the general public. These include social media templates and digital legacy wills and other very useful information and guides, and I recommend that you pay their site a visit.

CompuServe was the first to offer cloud storage back in the 1980s, albeit a small amount of space compared to today, when storage numbers are estimated at over 1 Exabyte (do not worry that got me as well) of data is stored in the cloud. If you are a Gigabytes kind of person then that is 1,073,741,824 Gb’s.

How much data has been lost or is not accessible by loved ones and may still be sitting in the cloud somewhere? How many people have not only lost loved ones but also lost access to all their photographs and other memories? Do not let it happen to the people you leave behind.

Organise your Digital Legacy.

Steve Bonnici is the owner of Chiswick Compters, which has now closed its retail workshop on King Street, but operates an online help service for quick fixes, or will pick up your computer, have a look at it and drop it back to you. Chiswick Compters is a member of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card scheme. See their offer to Club Card holders here – Club Card offer.

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