Would you readily share your entire browser history with your spouse, parents, or children? If the answer is yes, then congratulations! This article is probably not for you. But if you’d feel at least a bit uneasy, don’t worry – you are not alone. About one in four internet searches relates to adult content. Additionally, 35% of all internet downloads are adult themed. Adult entertainment is a common internet pastime that many people enjoy. Our past two articles in our digital legacy series examined how to preserve social media content and digital assets. This article will show you how to maintain your privacy after death. Learn how to hide your browser history from your heirs and erase or restrict digital content that you do not want to share with your entire family.
Embarrassment after the Funeral
Most people probably don’t consider what would happen to their sensitive content if they died or became incapacitated. While your estate attorney might find the resulting embarrassing situation somewhat entertaining, your relatives most likely will not. It happens more often that you think. No matter what you are trying to hide, an executor or administrator has a duty to uncover it all. They cannot destroy assets on their own and have a duty to turn them over to your heirs. For example, an executor working with a deeply conservative family once discovered the decedent’s massive gay porn collection. The decedent would have probably wanted that collection to remain hidden but failed to take proper precautions. Yet, as the collection had some value, the executor could not simply destroy it.
Hitting the Self-Destruct Button
In cases like these, you may not want your sensitive content to survive your death or incapacity at all. Don’t you wish someone could simply hit that self-destruct button and erase anything potentially embarrassing? There is some good news. As you may recall from our previous article, The Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, (“UFADAA”), NY Est Pow & Trusts L § 13-A-1 (2021) allows you to take control of your digital assets after death. As such, the UFDAA can be your self-destruct button if you remember to invoke its powers and use them correctly.
Set Accounts to Self-Delete
The easiest way to deal with sensitive accounts is for them to delete themselves automatically. Many service providers, like Tinder, delete accounts after a period of inactivity on their own. Check their terms and conditions to be sure. Others, like Facebook or Google, let you schedule your accounts for deletion. For Google, use the Inactive Account Manager. For Facebook, click on “Settings & Privacy,” then select “Settings,” and then click on the “General.” The fifth menu item should read “Memorialization settings” and allows you to elect account deletion upon death.
Whether you slate your accounts for deletion or read the terms and conditions to check if they provide for automatic deletion, your choice will be enforceable and protected by the UFDAA. For sites that do not automatically delete your content or let you choose, you may have to appoint a digital executor.
Choose One or More Digital Executors
Digital executors are also covered by the UFADAA. You can choose any competent adult, like a trusted friend or even your attorney. Moreover, you are not limited to just one person. Therefore, you can choose different people for different digital accounts. This is important as you can elect one person to take custody of your family pictures, movies, or music while you have another person purge unwanted files.
This approach works best if you proactively separate sensitive content from everything else. For example, you can have more than one Gmail account – so why not create a separate one to use in your dating profiles? Likewise, you can create separate accounts in browsers, use incognito tabs, or use different browsers to maintain privacy. Doing so will allow your digital executor to simply delete specified accounts and their histories without having to sift through them.
Do Not Use Work Computers to Hide Sensitive Data
At this point, it is worth mentioning that using work computers and email accounts to hide content from friends and family is a terrible idea. As much as this should be common sense, we have seen it repeatedly. Employees use their work laptop for shopping, dating, or even porn. By law, employers must preserve information so that they can hand it over in case of a lawsuit. This means that everything you do on your work computer – your emails, your documents, your pictures – could become public. For this reason, you should use work computers exclusively for work and nothing else.
Have an Attorney Draft a Digital Estate Plan Today
Right now, you are the master of all your digital content. Therefore, now is the best time to protect this content once and for all to maintain your privacy and security. Thanks to the UFADAA, you can decide what happens to your data if you died – but only if you invoke its legal powers. Ordinary will forms you find on the internet generally don’t meet those requirements. That is why all our wills include general provisions for your digital assets at no extra charge. Whether you want to keep them or delete them, reach out to us today.