Monday, April 23, 2012

What happens to your data when you die? | TechCentral

People have often talked about what happens to the family history data you have collected during your life when you die. What happens if your children are not interested in the family history?

But now more and more people are keeping their family history in digital form, and then there is the other stuff that is part of the raw material of family history? There are notes and writings and e-mails and other data. Some of these questions are covered in this interesting article: What happens to your data when you die? | TechCentral
Digital assets may include software, websites, downloaded content, online gaming identities, social-media accounts and even e-mails. In Britain alone, holdings of digital music may be worth over £9bn. A fifth of respondents to a Chinese local-newspaper survey said they had over 5 000 yuan (US$790) of digital property. And value does not lie only in money. “Anyone with kids under 14 years old probably has two prints of them and the rest are in online galleries,” says Nathan Lustig of Entrustet, a company that helps people manage digital estates.
So what to you do about it? Do you leave your passwords to all your online accounts to someone in your will?

In the past biographers could collect letters, diaries and correspondence of those they are writing about, but what happens when most of the writing is digital. What if your e-mails are in a program that no longer works, or is no longer available?

People upgrade their computers. A laptop dies, and it is replaced by another with an "upgraded" operating system, so that even if the data on the old machine was backed up, it becomes inaccessible even before you die.

Historians, including family historians, have tools that were never available to previous generations, and make it possible to do data mining on an unprecidented scale, but at the same time the data is far more fragine and ephemeral. There are centuries-old documents written in old handwriting that are difficult to read, but with a little effort one can learn to read them. But what happens if you can't even see the writing, because it is only visible to a machine that no longer exists.

Read any floppy disks lately?

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