“Taking passwords to the grave”

So, yet another unexpected impact of the Internet!

"William Talcott, a prominent San Francisco poet with dual Irish citizenship, had fans all over the world. But when he died in June of bone marrow cancer, his daughter couldn’t notify most of his contacts because his e-mail account–and the online address book he used–was locked up.

"Talcott, 69 [link in article], a friend of beatnik Neal Cassady, apparently took his password to the grave.

"It’s a vexing, and increasingly common problem for families mourning the loss of loved ones. 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.

[snip]

"But it’s not a question of privacy rights so much as property rights, said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center [link in article].

"’The so-called ‘Tort of Privacy’ expires upon death, but property interests don’t," he said. ‘Private e-mails are a new category. It’s not immediately clear how to treat them, but it’s a form of digital property.’"

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