Prominent motor journalist Tal Shavit was killed in a motorcycle accident in March 2011. Several days after his death, his sister, Vered Shavit, as well as several other family members, were shocked to receive an email from him. The jarring experience, courtesy of spammers who hacked into his email account, led her on a journey meant to discover what happens to people's virtual assets once they are dead.
Shavit's ongoing quest to reclaim and manage her brother's cyber estate – i.e. email accounts, Facebook and Youtube profiles etc. – has culminated in a unique blog – a "how-to" guide to dealing with "digital death."
"I hope to raise awareness to how important – and simple – it is to manage our digital assets in a way that would make it significantly easier for our loved ones to manage them once we're gone," she told Ynet.
"No one wants to think about death, but just like we believe writing a will is the responsible thing to do, so is leaving instructions as to what we would like to do with our computer files, email accounts etc."
"Digital-era-death" aims to help Israelis do just that, by reviewing various pressing issues, from how to access email accounts sans password, through the posthumous-user policy difference between the various social media platforms, to virtual commemoration options.
While the guide was inspired by a personal tragedy, Shavit chose not to dedicate it to her brother. As such, she also took great care to keep it fully informative and free of sentimental embellishments.
A public service
"I started this blog for two reasons," she said. "First, to help people who lost someone and find themselves in a similar, horrible situation to the one I encountered; and second – to raise awareness to the issue.
"It's important to decide how we want our loved ones to deal with the digital files we keep… And since this is a very emotional issue, I decided to neutralize that aspect as best I could and offer as much information and tools as possible. I pour my heart out on my personal blog – not this one," she stressed.
The initiative was one year in the making and quickly turned from a personal project to one Shavit saw as a public service.
"I know how lost I was and how hard it was for me. I had my brother's computer and despite repeated requests from family and friends it was very hard to access the files," she said.
"I know that there are others in the same situation now and I want to help them as much as I can."