What will become of our digital legacies? (2004)

National Public Radio broadcast a fascinating report yesterday about the father of a United States Marine killed in Iraq who is petitioning Yahoo to allow him access to his son's email account.  His desire is to preserve the messages he sent as a remembrance for his his family and friends.  Apparently Yahoo's subscriber policy has no provision to allow authorized next-of-kin access to the accounts, but interestingly the report indicates that both AOL and MSN HotMail do.

This raises some interesting questions about all of our digital legacies.

Many years ago the disposition of a person's "personal effects and writings" was a significant component of their Last Will and Testament.   These items would be of particular interest if the person in question was an author, a politician or some other public figure - although personal letters handed down from generation-to-generation often become cherished family heirlooms.

Since so much of our written words (to say nothing of our audio recordings and images...) are now digitally created, the need to preserve and share this content with future generations will increasingly become an issue.

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