Entrustet: Dealing With Digital Heirlooms

Who will have access to your digital media after you die?

At the PSFK Conference in London in 2009, Richard Banks from Microsoft spoke about digital heirlooms and how we will be passing on these huge personal collections of media to our loved ones when we pass. Dunda spoke about the guilt that many of these people will have about throwing these away and wondered what solutions might be available.

Entrustet may be one of those solutions to help with digital heirlooming. Entrustet offers to help your family gather (and delete) all the digital media you have in the cloud. The system helps users create a secure list of digital assets, allows users to designate heirs and a “Digital Executor”, and helps them decide which assets are transferred to which heirs and which are deleted.

On the Entrustet website there’s a short interview with the founders. Jesse Davis answers these questions:

Where did the idea for Entrustet originate? “I was reading Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat and one of the chapters was about the Justin Ellsworth case. Ellsworth was a U.S. Marine who was killed in action in Iraq. His parents wanted access to his Yahoo! account to have more information and details from his life. Yahoo! refused. After a few months in court, a judge ordered Yahoo! to grant email access to his parents. All of a sudden it hit me that digital assets were ‘real’ and an essential part of an estate. It also made me wonder if Justin even would have wanted his parents to see all of his emails.”

Why will protecting one’s digital assets become more important in the future?
“As time goes by, we continually add more digital assets, from files on our computers to accounts on the web. And the value of each one grows. Take a web-hosting service, for example. I may only have one GoDaddy account in my lifetime, but I am always buying more domains within it. I have 20 domains now, and could add many more over my lifetime. If I died tomorrow, who would know how to access and manage them? How would GoDaddy know whom to contact? That’s why we created Entrustet.”

You might be interested to see Microsoft researcher Richard Banks talk about the histories we are creating about ourselves through digital media and how future generations will interact with the artifacts we leave behind.

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