What happens to your computer files, email account and social media accounts after you are gone?


We just don’t want to have the discussion

I think about this a lot ever since I read an article written by a lawyer on the topic. I decided it would make a good BDN Blog topic. Many people over 60 do have a computer that has a password in order to get into it. Your time on this earth ends suddenly or perhaps not so suddenly.

What happens to your Internet “footprint?”

Your computer sits where it has for the past x number of years. What happens to it and the files and documents on the hard drive? Are some of them important? Are their pictures that family may want to have access too? What happens to the email and social media accounts? If you have several PC’s including desktop machines and laptop, what files, pictures and so on are on which machine?

Oh my!

Are their things on your computer that, well, you’d just turn over in your grave if your family members happened to stumble upon. How about a record of every web site you’ve visited and saved (automatically) snap shots of various web pages you’ve looked at. Consider those pictures and or videos you’ve downloaded for your own personal viewing pleasure. We are all human and sometimes look at things we’d rather not have known by some people.

An example of “oh my!”

I’ll give you one example of a situation that I became aware of. In this case, the person had not passed away. It happened to involve a friend of mine. He would sometimes have instant message chats on Yahoo, using Yahoo’s Messenger program. (It’s a neat program that does several things other than allowing you to have instant message conversations) In his situation he should probably not have been having an ongoing conversation with the person that he had struck up an online relationship with. I asked him if he knew whether or not his Yahoo Messenger preferences were set to save a copy of all of his conversations on his hard drive. He did not know the answer so we looked. Sure enough, there they were in all their graphic detail. He nearly had a heart attack. His wife would have killed him but not before there was a messy confrontation where she presented him with pages and pages of conversation. Whoops! We found the folder that the conversations were kept and deleted them. Of course once you delete them they go into the recycle bin and can be recovered easily. We emptied the recycle bin. But that’s not enough. They can still be recovered although not so easily. I downloaded a program that would write over deleted files and free space on the hard drive with 1’s and 0’s multiple times making them impossible to recover. He dodged this bullet however, consider what might have happened if his spouse had found it later if he was no longer around. He took me out for a nice dinner!

Solution – Have “the talk” with someone you trust

The options to this social media and email dilemma is to give someone you trust your passwords or you could just take your chances and the attitude that “oh well, I’ll be dead and won’t have to worry about it”. Your social media accounts can be disabled, hidden or shutdown altogether. Perhaps you want them sitting out there for years after you are gone or no longer can or want to use your PC. This is a tough question. Who do you trust to do that? Who do you trust to have the password to get into your PC? What do you want them to do once they are in?

This is about personal privacy really, at all levels. I’m not judging anyone as to what is good, bad, right or wrong. This is just food for thought.

Comments welcome.

David Winslow

About David Winslow

I'm a life long member of the greater Bangor Community. My journey includes 26 years in the USAF, retiring in 1994. I am a graduate of Husson University (class of '73') where I obtained a four year degree in Business Administration. I've been a caregiver for my mother, worked in law enforcement, private security, volunteered in the community and now have a small computer repair business. I live in Brewer with my two dogs, Zoe and Dani.