Blog - BS Data, hackery, stories

Set up your own death folder

Last year, I wrote an article about a young man whose suicide was announced to his father on Twitter. The news hit me as something that would never had happened only a couple of years before. But also, while doing my research, I became aware of Facebook's policy on deaths:
a perpetual memorialisation of the account.

That was scary. That disturbed me a lot. I couldn't help but wonder: what would happen if I was to die tomorrow?
These are dark thoughts for a kid like me, but meh.

I've always been concerned with what happens after death. I do not know much about the topic, but I think I know what I would like for mine: that certain things go the way I wanted them to go.
I decided to do something, and I looked for a solution to empower my family to manage and terminate my online life if I wasn't able to do it myself. A sort of electronic euthanasia, if you like.

So here I am, thinking of a solution to this new problem that emerged recently.

Content

The first thing to do is define what will be included in this folder, i.e. what do I want to leave behind.

Part of the answer is pretty easy, as it comes directly from my original intention: the folder has to include whatever is necessary to terminate my online life.

So, I will include all the logins I can remember for my online accounts. This includes Facebook, obviously, but also Twitter, the two platforms I find the most macabre to look at after somebody passed away.
All the details for my email addresses will be included, as emails are now the angular stone of our digital life.

I also want to facilitate the management of my money (this postulates that I left journalism and actually earned money somewhere, but I am planning wide, here). Hence, the folder has to include my bank details, both in France and overseas.

The question of the power is here asked: companies that act in my name are entitled to refuse access to my data/possessions to my family in certain situations. That's why I pay my banker, after all, so me and only have access to my money. Obviously, this falls if a will is produced.
So, I also need to include my will in my death folder.

Now, the problem is that a will done by myself doesn't have much power, at least in French law, the one that will be applicable to my death.
I will consult somebody to solve this problem, but here is my idea: by giving directives, instructions and will beforehand and in private, it will be much easier for my family to know what to do.
If you're thinking that it's a technique to avoid taxes on my possessions, I couldn't possibly comment. Just think of somebody who expressed in front of everybody his desire to be buried not in the family grave, but in the town he was born in.

Specifications

Well, it is established that the content of this folder will be pretty sensitive, so I better make sure that I protect it correctly.

Security is paramount

For this reason, my death folder will take the form of an archive encrypted with TrueCrypt. Good security - hopefully.
Now, the storage. Where to store it so:

  • my parents and friends know where and how to access it in case of need,
  • it is less vulnerable than a sheet of paper somewhere,
  • even if they have the archive, they cannot use the info... unless I'm dead.

I ruled the cloud out of my possibilities, there's no way I would leave so many informations available, however protected they are, to anybody who can access a server. Seriously.
That leaves only the local solution open. Several options are then opened: the trusted CD/DVD (finite life), the USB key, or copies on computers.

Double authentication

Another problem is the accessibility of my data. I want my family to be able to read it if needed, but I don't want it accessible in other circumstances - i.e. deny the possibility to a single person to access the data.
This is a typical case where it is relevant make use of double athentication.

Following this principle broadly considered, one person alone cannot open the folder, because another person is required (think of all the action movies where the nuclear bomb isn't supposed to be launched without two people turning their super duper secret key at the same time).

In practice

In practice, here is how I shall proceed:

  • Copies of this folder will be stored at my family's home and in another family location, both on CDs and USB drives
  • The key will be given to a member of my family I trust above all, and all members will be aware of the specifics of how to proceed to open the archive
  • The secret key required to open the archive will unlock the folder...
  • ... containing another encrypted archive. The key to unlock this one will be known by a trusted friend of mine my family will have to get in contact with
  • This friend will have the task to get in touch in case something happens.

Conclusion

That solution seems like a fair enough way to go. Its biggest downsize is that it is far from practical in case of edits to do to the documents, as the archives are stored offline and in separate locations.

Time to deploy, then.