Data Inheritance: Correctly inheriting access data and digital documents


Author: Jan Tissler

Apple is the latest example of a rising trend: more and more providers are adding a "data inheritance" function. This allows you to designate people who will have access to information, data and profiles after your death. Even better than such provider functions, however, are overarching services that often cover more than the company's own ecosystem.

Nowadays, a person's inheritance no longer consists in only physical documents and objects, but also a lot of digital information and access data. Or at least that's what it should contain, so that relatives and work colleagues alike have all the important data they need should the worst happen. If, on the other hand, this type of inheritance has been overlooked, it can be difficult and above all tedious to gain access. Sometimes it is almost impossible.

In the meantime, providers such as Facebook and Google have introduced a corresponding "data inheritance" function. This makes it possible to more or less regulate exactly what is to happen to digital legacies after a person's death.

With Facebook, for example, you can specify whether your account should be permanently deleted or whether an inheritance contact can manage the profile in "memorial mode". Google, on the other hand, has an "account inactivity manager", where you can specify that the Google account should be deleted after a certain period of inactivity. Or alternatively, you can designate a trusted person who will have access to selected information and services.

How data inheritance works with Apple's iCloud

A latecomer in this area is Apple, which only recently added this type of function. The corresponding option can now be found in the settings on Macs, as well as iPhones and iPads, provided the operating system is up to date: iOS 15.2, iPadOS 15.2 and macOS 12.1 are required as a minimum.

If so, you’ll find the inheritance contact function in the iCloud settings in the "Security & Password" section, where you can add people as inheritance contacts.

As an inheritance contact, you gain access to photos, messages, notes, files, loaded apps and device backups, among other things. However, purchased films, music, books or subscriptions, as well as information stored in the keychain such as payment data and passwords, are expressly excluded.

Apple also points out that photos, for example, are only included if they were actually saved in iCloud. If a third-party provider was used, this will not be the case.

Why overarching services are often better

This shows a general limitation of these inheritance offers: They only cover the respective company's own ecosystem. So they help selectively. In view of the multitude of services and platforms we use today, however, this quickly becomes confusing. Moreover, the range of functions varies and not every platform even offers this option.

A service such as our SecureSafe inheritance function can be the better option because it is independent of providers and devices. In this service, you store all your important information and access data in one central place. You also have the option of specifying exactly who gets what information. After all, your relatives need completely different data than your colleagues at work. By the way, we were also the first to offer this function.

In all this, the SecureSafe is as secure as its name suggests. We apply the same requirements to this product as to our offers for banks: For example, the data is encrypted several times and secured three times. Furthermore, the release process does not take place without your knowledge: Before inheritance contacts are granted access, we send emails and text messages to you. You then have time to stop the process within an individually defined blocking period.

Last but not least, the SecureSafe is useful even during your lifetime, since you can use it to create and manage secure passwords, among other things. Given the SecureSafe is used (almost) daily, this in turn has an extremely positive effect on data inheritance: the data to be inherited in the SecureSafe will therefore normally be up to date. On the flip side, the same concept applies to inheritance services that are used less frequently: The content will already be outdated after a short time, whether because passwords have been changed, or perhaps created in the meantime but not transferred.

Closing words

Physical legacies such as keys or identity cards are usually available to survivors without any major hurdles. In the digital world, however, things are usually quite different, with more consequences than ever: from important company documents to irreplaceable family photos, numerous documents are now digitally secured behind access data. Figuring out what data is stored with which service is not always immediately clear. Access to computers and mobile phones is usually also well secured.

Inheritance functions at Apple & Co. are helpful in this respect, but are no substitute for digital inheritance planning.

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