Facebook Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Saving that parting e-mail from your first love in your inbox? Well, chances are, after you pass away, your spouse and the entire family will know about the long held secret.
This is because web email services like Hotmail and Gmail do not let users specify what should happen to their messages when they die.
In fact, email services owned by Internet giants like Google and Microsoft have a policy of keeping your data after you die and letting your next of kin or the executor of your estate access it. These services can hold tens of thousands of messages.
Accounts with Google's Gmail can hold up to 7GB - or roughly 70,000 emails with a small to medium picture attached to each and they archive the messages you've written as well as received.
When it comes to deleting the data, Microsoft's Hotmail will remove an account if it is inactive for 270 days, while Gmail leaves the responsibility to the next of kin.
Of the top three providers, only Yahoo! refuses to supply emails to anyone after the user has died. The user's next of kin can ask for the account to be closed, but cannot gain access to it.
A Yahoo! spokesperson said the only exception to this rule would be if the user specified otherwise in their will.
Meanwhile, social-networking site Facebook has recently publicised a feature called memorialisation that lets the family of deceased users keep their profile page online as a virtual tribute.
MySpace, on the other hand, says it addresses the issue of family access to sensitive data on a "case by case basis".
A spokesperson for MySpace could not rule out letting a user's next of kin log into their profile - potentially giving them access to private messages.