Bang! You're dead. Who gets your email, iTunes and Facebook?

Death and the medium

We love you too much to let you go

Microsoft's has no such mechanism. Next of kin can get access to the accounts and have it closed, after proving they have the legal right over the account. No information will be released, though.

What of other popular services?

Facebook appears the most user-friendly policy with regards to working with relatives and even provides a range of options including memorialising a post or removing the account. More information about what happens and what is available can be found here. The creation of a memorialised page is at the sole discretion of Facebook.

Even LinkedIn has a simple removal policy, which can be found here.

The recurring theme, though, is the Yahoo! method seems to win most of the time – perhaps as it is the one that requires the least work on the part of the provider. Twitter only offers the option to have an account deactivated – it doesn't use the word “removed”. The account cannot be accessed. Dropbox has a useful policy that will allow recovery of the files in a deceased user's account. The provider’s policy can be found here.

The supposedly nice Apple has the most severe restrictions. Effectively, that iCloud contract you neglected to read, states that upon death, the contract becomes null and void and the account is deleted. No options to retrieve files. This policy is the same with every i-related cloud offering, including iTunes!

This goes some way to explaining why a number of users are having issues when trying to leave their beloved iDevice to a member of the family. There have been several cases where Apple devices were bequeathed to people, sans unlock code. Despite a huge Twitter set-to, Apple declined to wipe the device, citing security concerns.

There are loopholes around this type of issue. When dealing with such final solutions as death, hacks such as using a backup account details of your next of kin would work, but would you really want to take that risk on something so important?

And what about those files that your family will need, such as contact lists, contracts and such? A knowledgeable IT person will use encryption to protect their information. Just ensure the really important files are stored in a form accessible by others, and they are able to get the passwords.

Dying offline is a serious business. The smart money always advises getting a will drawn up and not leaving things to chance. Most tech firms running online services have remarkably little time for the dying or deceased. That means it's down to you to make sure the last “i”s and the final “t”s are dutifully dotted and crossed. ®

* Perfectly legal avoidance techniques, El Reg is obliged to point out

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