I am recently dealing with the death of my father as his executor and having real trouble accessing all of his gadgets: laptops, iphones, pads etc... where he kept a lot of his photography and records of affairs. He has not recorded anywhere his passwords or pin numbers and from what I am finding even if the password is known to the hosting organisation, they are unwilling by policy to provide to an executor with probate over the deceased. Sometimes the PIN is local to the device with no way to unlock but to wipe the device, which defeats the purpose.
My father is probably an unusual death as he was old enough to leave a very clear will, but also young at heart and a real technophile. Cases like his are only going to increase in the future as tech reliant individuals start passing with wills in place.
It makes me start to think of my own will and how I can assure that my digital assets are available to my inheritors. I wonder whether I could explicitly state that I release organisations to give passwords to my executors and release them from any resulting prosecution or action. Would this be enough for them to release or do we need to campaign for policy change?
Should we ensure we build deceased person protocols into devices that have locally stored PINs? Some form of extended identification data like national insurance numbers, dates of birth, etc of the original owner could be used to verify a reset?
Or must we rely on writing down the dozens of passwords we use on pieces of paper to place in a safe and hope we haven't been asked to change our password between writing it down and passing?
I doubt there is much I can do for my Dads affairs right now except rely on grey market cracking services. But I do want to make sure my own affairs are easier to deal with. I really would like to know if this is something hubski has thought about or has some views on?
There's already a service out there for such a provision - Dead Man's Switch.
You can sign up for it, for free - and it will check periodically (through emails with a link that needs to be clicked) if you're still alive. If it's not, it sends emails (that you've written) to addresses (that you select) - and thus you can add all of that vital info in there and have it be sent if you're apparently dead.
But yes - it's a very interesting question, and for me the answer is simple: communication.