If You Die Tomorrow, Who Will Bury Your Data Six Feet Under?
Who will be reading your email after you die?
LifeEnsured, a New York-based start-up currently running on a $150,000 angel investment, is betting that you’d like to be the one to decide.
“We want people to think about about what their virtual life is and what it means to them and their families, and how they want to be perceived after they pass away,” said Founder Michael Aiello. “We want to be there to help take care of all that.”
Besides posthumously deleting an embarrassing Facebook account, what else could the recently departed want?
As it turns out, there’s quite a lot a user might want buttoned up online–and the services offered by LifeEnsured ranged from the straightforward to the fairly creepy.
Besides having Facebook accounts deleted, users can leave a final status message, disable wall postings, change their bio (theoretically to the past tense) and even transfer ownership of the account.
In fact, LifeEnsured members can take similar actions with over 30 online services like Twitter, PayPal, WordPress and Dropbox.
Some users will be particularly glad to know that the Match.com and eHarmony dating sites can also be dealt with, through LifeEnsured.
Aiello explained that there were also even more creative things that could be done with the departed’s data.
“One of our options for Yahoo’s Flickr photo service is to have all of the images revert to Creative Commons or into the public domain upon death of the owner,” he said.
LifeEnsured will also send any final emails, disperse the last files that users upload, or make a eternal XML/SOAP call to a personal Web server.
Why one might want to clear a Web server from beyond the grave is anyone’s guess.
Aiello’s choice to found this company is either a little dark, or just plain ahead of the curve.
After all, he is working on end-of-life planning, while most of his millennial entrepreneur brethren are trying to find ways to serve up more life-affirming services, such as daily deals and photo sharing apps.
But LifeEnsured is a start-up. And, if most start-ups fail, what happens if the customers outlive this one?
“We put all the requests for our paying members in irrevocable trust, paid for my their subscription fees,” Aiello said as comfortingly as a smooth-talking funeral director.
So, theoretically, if you are a paying customer, your wishes will be met, as long as the American legal system remains intact.
While LifeEnsured is operating in somewhat virgin territory, Aiello sees it as a necessary part of end-of-life planning for every generation from here on forward.
And that philosophy fits the sales strategy.
Aiello said that Life Ensured is “in talks with a major national funeral home chain to become part of the suite of services they offer when people come in to make arrangements.”
As macabre as it sounds, it’s pretty practical to have the brochure about last digital wishes, next to the one for choosing casket linings, or in the attorney’s office when filing a last will.
I caught up with Aiello at New York University’s Poly incubator in Manhattan and shot a solemn video with the digital undertaker.
Rest in your many digital pieces: