We have lots of passwords. In my case, some of them are of little consequence. But others are critically important. For instance, I’d hate for my family to be struggling with bank account information if I were to pass away. And with password updates, it is hard to incorporate them in wills. This is not an issue of sharing. The problem is keeping critical family members up-to-date.
The issue also arises for social networks. There is nothing sadder than a Facebook profile of a deceased that just ceases with updates. And that is where a new service, PassMyWill comes in. They will store your passwords for Facebook, Twitter and Email. They’ll check in every once and a while to see if you are still with us. And if not, they’ll send the passwords to trusted loved ones. They will be able to access them with a key you have already given them.
This is one of those ideas that ticks lots of boxes. It solves a problem and it appears easy to use. It is a solid entrepreneurial idea. And yet I wonder whether it can work.
Here are a couple of issues. First, you are handing your passwords over to a private company — a start-up no less. It isn’t entirely clear that the passwords will stay locked down. Yes, adverse publicity will keep a company in line on this but there is always residual concern. Second, because it is a start-up, you have to worry whether it will be around long enough. What you want is to set it and forget it. But in this case, it’s not that simple. I’m not sure what happens when passwords change but I can imagine that is complicated. And then there is the issue of whether the start-up will be around. To be sure, success of the venture will solve that problem but right now we have a classic chicken and egg problem. Third, at the moment the service is free. That might not sound like a problem but if you are after a service that will be around awhile that should give you pause. If they aren’t making money from you who will they make it from? Your loved ones? A price to retrieve the passwords? Advertising for funeral services?
If I had to guess, the right answer is to think of this as a platform rather than a service. The platform could provide the keys to loved ones and a relationship with other services (say Facebook or Gmail). It would then be up to each service to verify whether you are still around. If not, the platform comes in and takes over using your most recent password. This has the advantage of both removing the updating issue, leaving your passwords with their current provider and also, by virtue of those providers accrediting the platform, giving the venture some credibility.
So for the moment, my passwords are willed in a non-digital, possibly imperfect way but I look forward to the day that this solid entrepreneurial idea is matched with the right business model.