We create a huge amount of personal digital data and most of us haven’t planned how to organize and protect this information for the future. This site will provide you with the information needed to help manage your personal digital data for two key aspects:
- Making sure family and loved ones are prepared to manage your digital accounts and data in the event of your death:
- Provide access to devices such as phones and computers.
- Provide passwords to access critical accounts such as financial, photo, crypto and email sites.
- Provide your wishes regarding whether to memorialize, delete or have a family member manage social media accounts.
- Preserve personal data you want passed on to your family for future generations which include:
- Organizing all your photos and videos and methods to share them.
- Establishing a data backup plan.
- How to back up data created on third party services.
- Collecting autobiographical stories and memories which could also serve as a memorial.
Below are details regarding some of the areas that need to be considered when coming up with a digital legacy management plan to get you started. There are also many articles and other resources that expand on each of these available on this site. This site is a work in progress and will continue to evolve as new information is gathered and organized so be sure to visit back for updates or signup for the newsletter at the bottom of this page.
If you’re curious about the origin story behind why I was inspired to research and help others on this subject matter you can read the origin story in an article here.
I also did this presentation back in 2013 but the overall concepts still hold up.
Creating a backup plan is the first step towards protecting your personal data.
- Start by backing up your data at home. Here’s several articles to help you do this.
- How to backup your computer – Lifehacker
- What’s your backup plan – The 99 Percent
- Set up an automated bulletproof file backup solution – Lifehacker
- Bulletproof backup: How to make sure your desktop, mobile & web data are safe – The Next Web
- You also want to backup your data to the cloud in case of a burglary of fire in which case the backup data at your home won’t do you any good. Currently there are 3 companies that lead the way in offering this service in a simple way at a reasonable price.
- For the data you are creating on other services you may want to find ways to back that up as well. Here are some online and social data Backup services to help.
- Here are details to export your data directly from a few services
- There are also a few companies that can import your data from multiple services at once.
Using a password management app is crucial for many reasons. The first is for reducing the ability for hackers to access your account. But additionally it’s important to provide access to your family if something should happen to you.
- Password Management Guides
- Password Services and Software
You should have a process to scan your photos as well as software to organize it on your computer. Your photos should be part of your backup plan. You can also use software to store your photos privately to share with family and friends in the cloud.
- Scanning Process
- I will be adding my personal processing method but until then know that you should first identify all the photos worth scanning and separate them in a pile, then organize them into individual piles based on similar sizes (all 4 x 6 together, all 5 x 7 together etc.) Then you will scan these piles in batches. I store my photos based on a date hierarchy of Year-> Month and within years I may also have additional folders with Day->Month->Year and name of special events. After you have all of the photos on your computer it’s time to use software to organize and manage them.
- Photo Scanner Hardware and Services
- There are many scanners available out there but there the 2 flatbed scanner makers that are best for consumer grade are made by Epson and Canon. I recommend visiting Wirecutter to help you decide which is best for you. If you have a large amount of photos you want to scan you may also want to consider a document scanner. The quality won’t be as good as the flatbed but you will be able to scan a much larger number of photos much faster here’s some options. Lastly you can also hire a service to scan your photos as well as slides if you don’t want to do it yourself. The price and quality of services can vary widely. Costco is a good option and you can also look at Wirecutter’s recommendations.
- Photo Management Software
- There are tons of software available for PC and Mac. I will only list a handful of them here. One of the main features the software should have is metadata and tagging support. Also, you want to make sure that you use a universally standard method of tagging (EXIF, IPTC, and XMP). This is important in case you choose to switch to other software in the future because it will maintain the tagging in the images themselves.
- Photo Management Guides
- Scan Your Entire Life – Great site with tons of scanning and photo software tips
- Cloud Photo Management and Sharing
- I highly recommend using Google Photos. It’s free (for up to 16mb images) and it allows you to automatically backup and store your mobile photos as well as photos stored on your computer on the cloud. It offers great photo management and sharing options. I wrote an article a while back but they’ve since added many more features making it indispensable for me.
- Microsoft Photos (OneDrive support for Cloud)
- Mac Photos (iCloud Support)
- Plex (PC & Mac shares your local images on the cloud)
Personal Video Management
- Library of Congress archiving tips
Social Media Management
There are several aspects related to managing your social media accounts for the future. You may want to back up or export your data for personal archiving. Most services now have options for determining your wishes for how your presence should be maintained (or deleted) after you die. Facebook and Google allow you to designate someone and what they can access or options for managing your account after you die.
- Facebook information for: Memorializing or deleting the profile and downloading account data using their legacy contact feature
- Google Inactive Account Manager: Configure your Google account to grant access to data for trusted contacts
Digital Estate Planning and Will Management
There are a few legal aspects to creating a digital estate plan and Will that are specific with regards to digital legacy. You should designate your digital estate and wishes for them separately. This can be an addendum to your normal will. You should also designate a digital executor for those assets.
- I wrote an article that details the need for this along with a template to create a document for someone to access all of your data. Below are some of the keys to creating this:
- Provide information for password services / software with the master password to access
- Designate and train a digital trustee on accessing your data and passwords to help out
- Provide information for all on-going subscriptions to services related to digital data
- Another good place to learn is at the Get Your Shit Together website and read their resources.
- They recommend 3 online legal services to create your own Digital Will which include:
- You can also learn about the legal aspects of a digital legacy at the NOLO website. They are the authors of Quicken WillMaker software which I’ve used. After creating the Will you then need to get it notarized.