All the content in the blog is available free of charge and can be found in the menu to the left.
Please feel free to scroll down in order to become acquainted with all the content which might possibly be of interest or of service to you

12/12/2012

A digital mausoleum?

Amazon launched a new service, Amazon Glacier, in August 2012. The Glacier offers to store, archive and back up data for a very low monthly cost: $0.01 per gigabyte.  

The storage is specifically designated to stow data that isn't accessed frequently, for which a retrieval time of several hours is suitable - just as we would put away boxes of folders for storage in a physical archive, located away from our home or office.


But what does that have to do with death in the digital era? 


When describing this service, Amazon uses the word "vault": "You use vaults to organize the archives you upload to Glacier" and phrases such as "
There is no limit to the amount of data you can store in the service" and "this data is often retained for years or decades. Amazon Glacier allows you to retain archived data for as long as desired."

What does it mean? 

On the one hand, it creates the possibility of a digital mausoleum: buy lots of storage space for cheap, upload to it anything you think our loved ones today - or generations to come - may find interesting, and take our self-commemoration one step further. It's secure, durable, simple, flexible and you pay only for what you use, making this a low cost service. The data we'll leave behind will no longer be divided among various computers and servers, between a cloud backup here and a portable hard disk backup there - it will all be centered in a single place, and our heirs will have a simpler, easier access to our digital legacy. 

On the other hand, if this really is a vault where our digital and online life are stored in multitudes, in case of a tragedy - when someone dies unexpectedly and didn't manage his digital inheritance - the loss of this legacy might be utter and complete. It won't a merely partial loss, as might happen today when only some of our legacy is stored with each of the various Internet providers (I intend to find out what is Amazon's policy in case of a death of a client and will let you know - I have - update below)

One of the difficulties we're already dealing with today is the enormous, almost endless, amount of digital and virtual assets a person leaves behind when they pass. I explain this in detail in my post After death: the difference between dealing with digital assets and other assets. If more and more people were to use the Glacier service, their heirs will find themselves dealing with an amount of digital legacy which has truly become endless - no one will ever bother to sort or delete again. We shall all become hoarders and pile, collect, gather and store more and more pictures, files, emails, movies, music, books etc., in the Glacier - is the difficulty more apparent now? 


Another point to take into consideration is the ecological implications, which CNN wrote about in an article back in 2009: Greening the Internet: How much CO2 does this article produce?"Massive buildings housing hundreds, if not thousands, of power hungry servers storing everything from Facebook photos and YouTube videos to company web sites and personal emails -- are often labeled as the worst offenders when it comes to harming the environment" (by means of electricity demands, greenhouse gas emissions and carbon emissions). 

If these days already, when a person passes away they leave behind enormous amounts of data floating in the net and around the clouds, what were to happen if all of us were to leave behind vast digital mausoleums? 

We might be nursing the illusion that what happens in the virtual, digital and online worlds stays there, but in fact it all has direct implications on our tangible world. 


Thank you Limor Schweitzer for telling me about the Glacier, and thanks Life Insurance Finder for your excellent infographic, through which I became acquainted with CNN Tech's article.  


Update December 2012: Matt Lambert, PR manager of Amazon Web Services, answered my questions regarding their policy: "We evaluate account transfer requests on a case by case basis, but generally speaking, we would require requestors to provide a copy of the death certificate and answer account security questions"..."This is the policy for Amazon Web Services. I can’t speak for other parts of the Amazon business". 
In case of a Glacier user who passed away, you can contact Amazon's customer services

No comments:

Post a Comment