Where will your online persona go when you die?
It might seem like a morbid question, but it’s a reality we all face in this day and age. The answer is that, if not addressed, our virtual identities remain publicly available and all the information therein can potentially be hacked, manipulated and even used in a fraudulent manner.
That’s obviously not something we want to happen to us or our late loved ones, but when an individual passes away, the family or estate already has enough tangible aspects of loss to deal with — assets, liabilities, commitments, etc.
It would be nice if there was some easy process for shutting down the decedent’s various accounts, but unfortunately there is not — until now. As we traverse this generational era, a new Minneapolis-based company aspires to lift that burden from the shoulders of the estate executors.
Together, Scott Weinberg and Cole Hanson launched Protect Their Memories just over a month ago. They describe the company as a “digital estate management agency.” In short, they handle the process of communicating and following up with social networks to ensure that a deceased person’s accounts and info are removed from the Web.
Weinberg offers no illusions about this process: “It’s manual, and it’s a bit tedious,” he says, “but I believe that’s where I offer value.”
“I’m taking it off their plate and adding it to mine.”
That would undoubtedly be a welcome relief for a grieving spouse or family member. Although each of the eight social networks covered by Protect Their Memories has a “death policy” in place, there is no uniformity to them, and in some cases the hoops that must be jumped through are significant. Previously, there had been no service available in the entire country to assist people with this specific process, according to Weinberg.
So this is new ground, and the company’s creators believe they are ahead of the curve. The reason digital asset management hasn’t emerged as a high-profile issue is that most elderly people aren’t involved with social media at present. But as time passes and the Internet generation ages, we’re going to see that trend change.
The model for the company is quite simple. They charge on a per-account basis, with a fee that varies based on the social network in question (the more complicated systems, such as Google Plus, cost a bit more). On average, the price is around $150 each.
Through his experience, Weinberg knows the system well enough to navigate it well, but the process inherently still takes time in each instance, so scalability is definitely a long-term concern. He says that as business grows, he will seek additional employees to handle some of the work.
For now, he’s sticking with his day job, a market research consultancy called Tabla Mobile, and keeping this as a side gig. Perhaps it will grow into more than that once the market catches up to him.