Taking Passwords to the Grave

Reader JP, sends us this little tidbit about accessing online information after someone has passed away. From CNET: As more and more people move their lives, address books, calendars, financial information, online, they are taking a risk that some information formerly filed away in folders and desks might never be recovered. That is, unless they share their passwords, which poses security threats.

Last year, Yahoo was forced to provide access to the e-mail of a U.S. Marine killed in Iraq to his father, who got a court order in the matter. Google will provide access to a deceased Gmail user’s account if the person seeking it provides a copy of the death certificate and a copy of a document giving the person power of attorney over the e-mail account, said a Google spokeswoman.

America Online follows the same policy, according to spokesman Andrew Weinstein.

“In terms of tips for estate planning, it’s much easier if a family member already has the password.”

Got that kiddies? Give your passwords to someone you trust, just in case you die. Or, conversely, be sure not to save any email you wouldn’t want your mom to read after you’re dead.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Ooh. Good reminder. Thanks Consumerist!

  2. amazon says:

    Even better is to write your password down and keep it in a safe place. Like a personal safe or even your wallet. This way your loved ones can have access to your account if you happen to kick the bucket, but they won’t have access without your knowledge. (Which they would if you just handed over your password now).

  3. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    AOL will give your loved ones access to your account after you’ve departed, but then won’t cancel the account. Hmmmm…

  4. Nifle says:

    A Power of Attorney is useless after a person is deceased. You need a letter of Administration or a letter of Testamentory, provided through the courts. Just an FYI, incase you are ever faced with the situation.

  5. RandomHookup says:

    Just remember to give the loved one access to the safe so they can open it when you’re gone…oh, shite. Same problem.

  6. Dr. Eirik says:

    There are ways to get into a safe, though, even without the combination. Given enough time, permission and the ability to damage the safe, I’m sure a locksmith could access most consumer-level safes.

    Either that, or call the Mythbusters to drop a couple sticks of TNT down the hatch.

  7. Ran Kailie says:

    We went through this nightmare after my brother died last year. I went ahead and put a listing of all my accounts and passwords in a file in a lock box that my family knows about. So they can get to email and other things and cancel accounts.

    Just common sense.