Make sure your online accounts get deleted when you die

Make sure your online accounts get deleted when you die

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Not everyone wants to leave this earth with their online accounts being managed by relatives and next-of-kin, or just floating around on the Internet forever. If you’re the kind of person who likes your privacy — even in death — you should probably make some plans to have all of your online and social media accounts nuked when you pass away.

Some services, such as Google and Facebook, let you set up your eventual account deletion before you get anywhere close to death. Other services will keep your account forever unless an immediate family member or the executor of your estate requests it be removed. Here’s how to make sure all your loose ends are tied up, and that nobody ever gets hold of your top-secret/possibly incriminating emails and Twitter direct messages.

Google

Google’s Inactive Account Manager lets you choose what happens to your account when it becomes inactive for a certain period of time. You can set up the Inactive Account Manager to delete your Google account and all products associated with that account, including Gmail, Blogger, AdSense, and YouTube.

To set this up, log in to your Google account and go to this page. You will need to provide Google with a phone number for alerts — Google will send a message to this number before your account times out, so you know your account is about to become inactive. You will then need to select a timeout period (3 months, 6 months, 9 months, one year, 15 months, or 18 months).

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Then, under Optionally delete account, turn on Delete my account. Click Enable to turn the Inactive Account Manager on, and you’re set. If you fail to log in to your account for the timeout period you selected, Google will delete your Google account and all data associated with it.

Facebook

Facebook is one of few online services that lets you set a legacy contact — someone who can manage parts of your account and memorialize your page — for when you die. Facebook also lets you delete your account when you die (though it doesn’t use inactivity to determine that you’ve passed away).

To make sure your Facebook account is deleted when you die, open Facebook and go to Settings > Security > Legacy Contact. Check the box next to Account Deletion.

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

You will see a pop-up box asking if you really want to delete your account in the future. Click Delete After Death and then re-enter your Facebook password to save your changes. Your account will now be deleted when Facebook is notified of your death — this means that if anybody tries to memorialize your page, it will be deleted instead of memorialized.

Use a digital legacy service

Google and Facebook give you the power to delete your account when you die, but many sites and services — such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Microsoft, and Yahoo — do not. These sites will delete the account of a deceased person at the request of an immediate family member or the executor of an estate (by the way, you can and should delineate how you want your digital life to be handled in your last will and testament). If you want to take full control, you can use a digital legacy services like Perpetu.

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Perpetu is an online service that covers Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Flickr, LinkedIn and GitHub. You connect your accounts to Perpetu, and then you outline your final wishes for each service — for example, you can request that Perpetu delete certain emails from your Gmail account, delete tweets and direct messages from Twitter, or delete files from your Dropbox account.

The service can’t really delete actual accounts, but it can delete data and leave final updates for your friends and family to see. Perpetu’s service kicks in when the company receives a report of your death from a trusted contact with your reporting code, so it’s still a good idea to put this in your will.

The Right to Be Forgotten: Why a New Artist's Biggest Battle Is Finding a Way to Delete Their Past

The Right to Be Forgotten: Why a New Artist’s Biggest Battle Is Finding a Way to Delete Their Past

This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.

Remember Britannia High? 2008 UK’s answer to Fame? The just-before-primetime ITV song-and-dance debacle that was axed after one series? They were great days. The show, of course, was a complete disaster, both on a creative, commercial, in fact, every possible level.

But if you examine audition footage of Britannia High on YouTube maybe you’ll start to wonder if the whole thing could have been rescued, had the show only made different casting decisions. Here, for instance, is a great singer who didn’t make the cut.

In case you couldn’t be bothered to watch the clip above, the “great singer” auditioning for Britannia High is Ed Sheeran.

Now it’s funny isn’t it—you never read Ed Sheeran talking too much about his attempt to become the next Darcey Bussell when he was launching the career we know and love today. It was all “SBTV” this, “Wiley and Sway” that.

Ed Sheeran isn’t alone in suffering from selective career amnesia. When Haim stomped towards the top of the BBC Sound Of 2013 poll, they weren’t regaling the media with tales of the time two Haim sisters starred in absurd teen pop band Valli Girls, notable for tunes like It’s a Hair Thing.” Tahliah Barnett isn’t big on telling the world about the time, years before she was FKA Twigs, when she appeared as a dancing carwash attendant in a Dionne Bromfield video.

Pop’s always been full of these Sliding Doors moments, but in the digital age it’s hard for an act to remove evidence of their pasts. Hard, but not impossible. Last year, at the behest of the Court of Justice of the European Union, Google implemented a “right to be forgotten” procedure. It’s a way for people to get pages removed from Google searches, the logic being that if you get caught having a wank on the bus when you’re 22 and Metro decide to publish a LOL news story about it, it’s reasonable to hope that a potential employer won’t find out about it when you’re 28.

For musicians, swap out “potential employer” for potential fans, potential record labels, and potentially keen journalists. And for “having a wank on a bus” insert “making terrible music and videos,” and consider Sam Smith. Prior to a career jump-start from Disclosure he was just another pop hopeful with a really helpful mother. Unfortunately long before Grammy wins, Bond themes, and household name status, he was busy recording and releasing songs like “Bad Day All Week.” “Bad Day All Week” was the opposite of a good song, and it was accompanied by an arse-clenchingly awful video.

Usually there would be a video embed instead of this paragraph, right? That’s how journalism works in 2015.

But the video just isn’t online any more—it disappeared from YouTube, and these days seems to be swiftly dealt with if it does reappear. Similarly many of Sam’s pre-fame tweets, in which he alluded to his sexuality and obsessive Gaga fan status, have also disappeared.

Kacy Hill

In the US, prior to becoming Kanye’s current protégé, Kacy Hill was a model in a controversial (aren’t they all) American Apparel campaign, and eyebrow-raising ads don’t sit well alongside the singy-songwritey image she’s now putting forward. Naturally, those shots aren’t mentioned in her official bio—which is what many journalists will work from when writing about her—but it also looks like her lawyers have been trying to get those shots unlisted by Google. Kacy now seems to own the copyright in those images so takedowns should be successful to a degree, but what about Sam Smith’s deleted tweets, which can no longer be embedded but whose words live on, copied and pasted in pages like this?

“People do own the copyright in their own tweets,” says Twitter’s Bruce Daisley. “Strictly speaking there would be grounds to make a claim, but generally we see that when people are asked politely to remove those things, they tend to comply.” Those tweets could also fall under fair use, which circumvents copyright when it comes to commentary and news reporting. In any case, Daisley has another word of caution for any artists thinking of getting lawyers involved. “I do wonder,” he says, “if going to law on it might go a bit ‘Streisand’.”

He’s referring to the Streisand effect, a phenomenon so well known that it has its own Wikipedia page but which bears repeating here because it’s funny. In 2005 a photographer took 12,000 photographs of the California coastline in order to document coastal erosion. It seems fair to assume he couldn’t have given two shits about Barbra Streisand but one of those 12,000 pictures contained Streisand’s home, resulting in a lawsuit from Babs. The picture had been downloaded a grand total of six times before Barbra kicked up a fuss; four times if you don’t count downloads by Barbra’s lawyers. In the month following the well publicized lawsuit, almost half a million people visited the site.

“The risk of trying to take down old music, or old videos is not only that you will never get rid of them all, but also that you risk highlighting a problem and thus creating a story out of that,” agrees one music publicist who’s helped massage the profiles of various “new” artists. “I’d advise people in this situation to just try and own it—the more you try to hide something, the bigger deal people think it is, and the bigger a story it becomes. It’s definitely better to just own it and move on.”

The picture of Streisand’s home that went viral

Internet privacy expert Frank M Ahearn, whose books include How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, is similarly wary of asking sites to remove content. “The website could post that you requested removal and it could go viral again,” he agrees. “Some celebrity clients I have worked for have done some embarrassing work in the past and once they make it, they want to turn back clock and rid the world of the past. But it is extremely difficult. The internet is like the tide; information and photos come and go. What you delete today can easily creep up tomorrow.”

Ahearn adds that Google’s measures are “useless” when VPNs and other search engines exist, and when asked to consider Sam Smith’s predicament he suggests an elaborate smokescreen. “If you are famous, sometimes I suggest to clients to leave it, let it ride it course and hope it dies a digital death,” he says. “Alternatively, we begin creating disinformation that Sam Smith from London Shoe Store tweeted the information, and then I build blogs where the fake Sam takes responsibility for the information. It does not always work but sometimes it creates doubt and other tweeters and bloggers assist disseminating the doubt.”

Despite the risks, there’s still a chance nobody will notice the disappearance of content, so there’s strong temptation to quietly remove content you have access to in your own sites and social channels—particularly if you’re trying to launch your music via a media industry that exists on layer upon layers of tastemaker approval.

The singer in one act currently hoping for a place on the 2016 tips lists said they’d talk to Noisey if we didn’t blow their cover, which under the circumstances seems fair enough. The rough story, though, is that their current offering is fairly leftfield and requires tastemaker support in order to get traction, but a couple of years ago they were in a markedly less credible band that had been formed by a titanically uncool management company.

“There is a cloud over my head,” they admit to Noisey. “I’m worried it could all come back and bite my ass. I suppose it’s like if you walked into someone’s bedroom to pick up a phone charger and saw that they had a whip and handcuffs. It’s not necessarily that I’m self conscious of it myself—it’s just that it could be detrimental to my current goals. Which is dumb, but whatever.”

Does it seem unfair how there’s now an expectation that all artists should get it right first time? It feels like experimentation is being penalised, in a way. “It is unfair, I think,” they agree. “People do things that don’t work. I don’t see why it should be a problem. I was 18 and my personal music was in a rut—I had no idea how anything worked in the industry so I took the plunge. I learnt a lot in that time, but then I started again on a new journey that, hopefully, I’ll get right this time.”

It’s important to state that this new artist isn’t being paranoid about how their previous exploits might affect their future chances. “With new artists, everything needs to be perfect,” says James Penycate, a digital communications expert whose work has included launching artists like Tom Odell, Tove Lo and Ghostpoet. “We all know how difficult it is to sell an act through Radio 1. To catch the attention of their key decision makers you need numerical or statistical proof that you have an engaged audience or the potential for one, but just as importantly you need a true avalanche of support from tastemakers. This whole subject boils down to authenticity.”

It might seem strange at a point when credible publications are falling over each other to tell the world how much they like the new Justin Bieber album but when it comes to a new act, rightly or wrongly (mainly wrongly), the sense that an artist has changed direction implies that their current incarnation is somehow false. Reasonable people might say that having a chicken sandwich for lunch yesterday doesn’t necessarily mean the soup you ate today is suspicious or unconvincing, but to the media a change in direction can look calculating or manufactured.

The fear, Penycate says, is that an act will get to the point where they need everyone on side (and many acts are at that point right now, with tastemakers currently voting in next year’s new artist polls) only for something awful to be revealed. “It could completely derail your campaign,” he explains. “The laughable thing is: do consumers really care? I don’t know if they do. Does the media care? Yes. That’s the problem.”

But as long as the media continues its obsession with credibility, and as long as massaging past exploits works, it’ll remain the norm. Last year’s BBC Sound Poll winners were Years & Years. During 2014 they made all the right moves in terms of engaging tastemakers: small gigs, an EP release, a featured vocal on a dance track. But before that all took place, they’d deleted early work from online accounts.

“When we first started making music we just put everything online,” Olly from the band says today. “Obviously no one gave a shit so it didn’t matter that there was random music and video floating about. When we did eventually get management as a result of those videos the first thing they said was ‘take everything offline’. This was meant to make us more appealing to potential labels. We were pretty happy to do it—it felt good to wipe the slate clean and put our best foot forward.”

Years & Years had gone through lineup changes and their music had also developed in style and quality, but they didn’t take absolutely everything offline immediately, and early videos remained online. When they signed to Polydor, even those went. “At that stage we all decided that the stuff we’d put online didn’t reflect who we were as a band anymore,” Olly explains. “We felt that if this was going to be the first time for most people to hear about us, we wanted people to see what we thought represented us best.”

When direct and honest communication with fans is so important, doesn’t this seem slightly dishonest? Olly reckons not. “I don’t think it’s being dishonest—people’s first impressions of you are really important so you wanna get that right. If we were going on a first date I wouldn’t be showing you pictures of how I was a little chunky and had a mullet a few years ago. To be honest some of our more hardcore fans have found old links or downloaded all that stuff. Nothing’s really erased on the internet anymore, right?”

It’s not only new artists who choose to sidestep portions of their careers. And sometimes the media, instead of having the wool pulled over their own eyes, are complicit in nurturing a selective narrative. It’s interesting how little is made of Beyoncé’s confusing mid-period between Destiny’s and “Crazy In Love.” The hugeness of her current success eclipses the role in Austin Powers that gave Beyoncé her first solo hit single. Likewise, chaos theorists could have a field day speculating what might have happened had Destiny’s Child never recorded a shit single in 1998 with Corrie mechanic-turned-hopeless-popstar Matthew Marsden:

That song came out through Columbia in 1998, but over on another Sony imprint in the same year, Northwestside boss Nick Raphael was securing a guest vocal from Beyoncé’s future husband. And so it was that Jay Z released a single with boyband Another Level.

“Rappers have made guest appearances for pop records for the last 30 years,” Nick Raphael recalls today. “It adds another dimension to the recording. At the time, outside America Jay was a credible, but niche artist—not the Jay-Z we know today.”

Raphael states that Jay has nothing to be embarrassed about musically (“he’s one of the greatest artists of all time”); these days Raphael is president of Capitol Records, home to Sam Smith among others, and he insists that a dodgy history doesn’t come into play when he and his longterm A&R associate Jo Charrington are looking at new artists.

“Very few artists strike upon their eventual paths immediately,” he reasons. “If artists don’t experiment, how will they find their true voice? When Jo and I sign an artist we judge the music they are presenting to us now. If their past behavior will affect their future success we have to bear that in mind—but it’s not a decision we’d base on their previous works.”

The same can’t necessarily be said for how the media look at things, and many artists—from Years & Years and Sam Smith to the likes of Lana Del Rey, Katy Perry, and Drake—have all benefitted from diverting attention away from their earliest work. Right now the music industry is built on quick and dirty experimentation and fast pivots if something doesn’t work out, with each incarnation of an artist’s endeavour leaving a digital footprint. And it’s still a headache for the anonymous hopeful we met earlier, who tells Noisey: “I’ve removed things from my personal accounts and deleted what I can, but it’s an ongoing effort to conceal a cheesy couple of years from influential people.”

Still, while he can’t speak for those in the media who obsess over artists’ perceived indiscretions, Nick Raphael offers some encouraging advice to any artist currently worrying about skeletons in cupboards. “Your history makes you more interesting to your fans,” he says. “Embrace who you are.”

 

When it comes to information overload, we’re like frogs in boiling water

When it comes to information overload, we’re like frogs in boiling water

By Andy Tattersal

To consider how being constantly connected through computers and mobile devices has encroached on our working lives, consider the experiment about the frog in a pan of boiling water.

A frog in a pan of cold water that is gently heated will not realise it’s boiling to death if the change is sufficiently gradual. In the same way, the web has affected our attention span and so our productivity – slowly but surely the heat of distraction has increased as decades of internet evolution has added email, websites, instant messaging, forums, social media and video.

Striving to manage technology better or wean ourselves off from distractions such as social media updates or emails can be very hard, if not virtually impossible for some. It requires serious willpower.

Lock-down

What’s the answer for today’s organisations – lock-down and block, and risk restricting access to genuinely useful content and services? Blocking and locking-off parts of the web can only hinder progress and innovation, or by reacting to slow to change and innovation as seen in the NHS can have a negative impact on technology uptake, especially now the internet is now made up of things.

If we are to advance knowledge, it’s essential to have access to the full gamut of content online. Whether that’s to study the effects of pornography on society or for a student’s private consumption, we have to be mature about this, there is some content on the Web that will always be demanded. In fact the government’s efforts to deal with online pornography has led to the over-zealous use of internet filters. Dumb filters performing keyword filtering inevitably led to legitimate sex education websites being blocked.

Procrastination is not new and there will always find new and inventive ways of putting-off work. But there are means to help tackle that distraction, if only for some rather than all of the time.

Eat that frog

The problem with digital distraction is often starts from the first moment we sit down at our desks, or even before we’ve got there. Once we open our email we are drawn into conversations, questions and broadcasts. The more emails appear, the more we feel compelled to deal with them.

A useful solution involves that frog again: we all have tasks we ignore and delay, nagging away at the back of our minds. We have to complete these tasks, so why not start your day by doing just that and eating that frog: instead of checking frivolous updates and emails, tackle an important task that’s hanging around first thing in the morning.

The Pomodoro Technique

The popular Pomodoro Technique, which suggests using 30 minute time slots for a single task, followed by a break, can be helpful in dedicating time to specific projects. Another way to reign in distraction is to create lists or use time management apps like 30:30 or Wunderlist. These help set up a structured pattern to the working day, which is especially useful if you need to use social media professionally but also need to carve out time to get other things done.

Meditate

Meditation and mindfulness has gained much attention in the last couple of years, such as Andy Puddicombe’s popular Headspace imprint. In a busy office this offers a sensible solution to problem of losing focus. Just five minutes meditation could help quiet the mind and return focus to completing the current task. Various studies have highlighted the benefits of meditation and mindfulness on a digital worker’s productivity, and general happiness too.

Create an alternative productivity calendar

Paper diaries are still often used, if less so with the modern proliferation of electronic alternatives. These often dictate the modern worker’s routine, so much so that they fill in the spaces with fractured and incomplete tasks. Another solution is to create a personal online calendar to overlay a work calendar. By scheduling everything, from checking social media and emails to family time and free periods, it’s possible to make better use of the time you have.

Self-management starts with you

There comes a time to cut back on things that aren’t good for you, whether that’s food, drink, or social media. We realise that seeking distraction from our daily tasks is not healthy, especially if we can minimise it.

Professor Steve Peters has helped many high-profile sports stars control this impulsive, emotional part of the brain – something he calls the “chimp brain”. The easiest way to do so is not to feed it, for example, by not opening email. But finding a happy medium between restriction and necessary use is not easy.

Some have tried to constrain email and its effects on the workforce by turning it off for set periods. In Germany there have been calls to prevent companies from contacting employees out of hours. While this is fine for those working the nine-to-five, this no longer applies to many for a variety of reasons, some personal, some due to the nature of the work.

Self-management tools are a better option. For Google users there is an app called Inbox Pause which does just that, preventing new email distraction. There’s also restrictions for email on mobile devices that only updates when connected to known work or home networks – which means less chance of compulsively checking while out and about or on holiday.

But all of these require commitment, and like any lifestyle modification there has to be a willingness to change. Technology will continue to embed itself within our lives at home and at work, especially the use of smartphones. So if we feel the need to reign-in the distractions, whatever app or technique we choose to help us, it hinges on our own self-discipline.

Get Ready for Your Digital Model

Get Ready for Your Digital Model

Millions of copies of your model could roam the Internet, doing all the things you’d do if you only had the time.

Entrusting your money to a bank once seemed strange and risky. Similarly, entrusting all of your data to a company and letting its algorithms build a detailed model of you from it might seem to be an odd or even dangerous idea, but we’ll all soon take it for granted.

A decade from now, your personal model will be more indispensable than your smartphone, and the company that provides it may well be the world’s first trillion-dollar business. So it is time to start getting acquainted with our digital alter egos—and what they’ll mean for our lives.

Today, several different companies gather information about you and use machine-learning algorithms—computer programs that build models from data—to predict what you may want to buy and figure out how to sell stuff to you.

Privacy concerns aside, this poses two problems. First, companies have a conflict of interest: They want to serve you, but they also want to make money.

For example, Google predicts how likely you are to click on an ad to show you the most profitable ones. The choice also depends on the advertisers’ bids, but you’d probably rather just see the ads most relevant to you. Google co-founder Sergey Brin says that Google wants to be the third half of your brain, but nobody wants part of their brain constantly trying to show them ads.

The second problem is that a model of you derived from fragments of your data—Google’s model based on your searches, Amazon’s from your purchases and so on—can only ever have a very limited understanding of who you are and what you want. A single model assembled from all the data you’ve ever produced would be much more accurate: The more data, the better the model. For privacy reasons, you’d want the data and the model under your control, not a third party’s.

Soon enough, facing the fog of life without a good model to guide you will seem unendurable.

To solve both of these problems, we need a new kind of company that is to your data like your bank is to your money—storing it, keeping it safe and investing it on your behalf. For a subscription fee, such a firm would record your every interaction with the digital world, build and maintain a 360-degree model of you, and use it to negotiate with other people’s models.

No major technical obstacles would prevent doing this: The main requirement would be routing your interactions through what’s called a proxy server. If all your interactions with the digital world—through your smartphone, desktop computer or any other device—pass through a “middleman” computer in the cloud en route to their destination, the middleman can record them all.

The companies that now offer to consolidate all your data somewhere in the cloud are forerunners of tomorrow’s personal databanks. Once a firm has your data in one place, it can create a complete model of you using one of the major machine-learning techniques: inducing rules, mimicking the way neurons in the brain learn, simulating evolution, probabilistically weighing the evidence for different hypotheses or reasoning by analogy. Then you can go to town with your model, which you’d own and control like you do your money, rather than letting companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook FB -3.77 % fight for control of it.

With this in mind, here’s a future suggestion for LinkedIn: Add a “Find Me a Job” button. When you click it, your digital model would “interview” instantly for all the open positions that match your specifications, interacting at high speed with human-resources departments’ recruiting models. LinkedIn could then return a list of the most promising jobs for you.

While one copy of your model is doing this, another online alter ego could be looking for a car for you, exhaustively researching the options and haggling with the auto-dealer bots so you don’t have to.

At any moment, millions of copies of your model could roam the Internet, doing all the things you’d do if only you had the time. From these, your model selects the best few options for you to choose—then learns from what you decided, making the model more accurate the next time around.

To offset organizations’ data-gathering advantages, like-minded individuals will pool the data in their banks and use the models learned from that information.

As the models improve, their interactions will become increasingly like real-world ones—just millions of times faster and in silicon. Your model will go on a thousand digital dates with each of a thousand possible spouses and rank them by how well the dates went.

Tomorrow’s cyberspace will be a society of models, a vast parallel world that selects only the most promising things to try out in the real one—the new, global subconscious of the human race.

This will all probably happen in years, not decades. Apple’s Siri, Microsoft MSFT -0.90 % ’s Cortana and Google Now all include efforts to build complete models of you from the data captured by your smartphone, and they’re making rapid progress. Like a personal assistant, they try to help you accomplish your daily tasks, either in response to your commands (Siri) or on their own (Google Now). But to do that, they need to understand you, and they’ll use any data they can to do so—from the smartphone’s sensors to your emails and calendar.

The Web pages you see every day are already the result of complex interactions among the models that content providers, advertising networks and advertisers are deriving. Learning algorithms trade against one another in the stock market. Last May, a Hong Kong venture fund named Deep Knowledge Ventures appointed an algorithm to its board, voting on investment decisions alongside the five human directors, according to Business Insider.

Today’s models don’t yet interact with us: You can’t tell them they’re wrong or ask them questions. Machine-learning algorithms are black boxes that only computer scientists can open up. But that will change as more of us realize how important machine learning is and demand a say in how it occurs.

Eventually, your model will be like your best friend, but with infinitely more patience. What will you ask it? You might not like some of its answers, but that would be all the more reason to ponder them. Your model—your digital half—might even help you become a better person.

—Dr. Domingos is a professor of computer science at the University of Washington and the author of “The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World” (Basic Books).

When a dev dies, their apps should live on

When a dev dies, their apps should live on

Most of my working life is spent thinking and writing about technology, gadgets, design and gaming. And while it might sound trite, my favourite part of all this is people.

There’s nothing better when I’m in front of my Mac’s glowing screen than an editor sending a juicy commission that involves me getting in touch with a bunch of talented folks, to find out their views on a particular subject, and then weave them into a feature.

Recently, I was asked by a games mag you’ve probably all heard of to write about Apple TV and gaming, largely from a development standpoint. As ever under such circumstances, I went through my list of email and Twitter contacts, seeing this as a good opportunity to offer some exposure to indie developers whose work I’ve enjoyed over the years. One response came back very quickly, albeit from a name I didn’t quite recognise. The message was in fact from a developer’s wife; the person I was trying to get in touch with had died the previous week.

The developer in question was Stewart Hogarth, who’d lost his battle with congenital heart disease; he was just 34. We’d only been in touch a few times, but I’d been captivated a couple of years ago by his truly excellent 8-bit tribute I Am Level for iOS and Android. This was a smart, charming, entertaining title that married eye-searing Spectrum-style graphics, old-school single-screen platforming challenges, and modern mobile tilt-based controls. It was still installed on all of my devices, and it was strange and very sad to think that the person who created it was no longer with us.

Another developer I was interviewing at the time expressed his shock regarding Stew’s passing, and also concern that his work’s availability was now potentially on borrowed time.

As a developer, he said it was almost like a little of his soul somehow went into each app or game he made; through what you’ve created, you can in some way live on if you’re no longer around. This of course isn’t new thinking — people often say similar things when it comes to art and literature, and even film and music. But those mediums have the kind of longevity that just isn’t afforded to modern digital apps.

Once a developer account lapses through non-payment, the apps are gone forever, which feels wrong.

The notion of dealing with death is something that social networks are slowly getting to grips with. Facebook enables you to make a request to memorialise someone’s account, and helpfully notes what will happen to that person’s page and settings.

Naturally, things remain far from perfect in the social networking space — I’ve heard of automated friend suggestions appearing in people’s timelines from colleagues, friends and love ones who have died. But at least mechanisms are starting to be put in place for protecting the original accounts and precious memories.

For apps and games, things are more complicated. Developer accounts are tied into contractual frameworks. Typically, it’s possible to add extra administrators to your account, but it’s hard to know how many independent developers make such arrangements. After all, who expects they won’t be around tomorrow?

On contacting Apple and Google while writing this article, I discovered there are at least policies in place for a relative taking over an account, which can potentially be achieved by way of full and proper legal checks and identity verifications. Titles someone created can then live on, at least as long as someone pays relevant annual dev fees and bills.

That’s business, but it seems so cold and uncaring. It doesn’t really recognise that those creative endeavours are part of the people who made them.

Perhaps the gatekeepers of mobile content should consider enacting a policy like Facebook’s. It would be rather lovely to think I Am Level could live on regardless, rather than one of the things people think of when remembering Stew just one day disappearing forever.

Stewart Hogarth’s family are raising money in his memory, for the Freeman Heart & Lung Transplant Association. The writer of this article has made a donation.