Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

May 14, 2005

Should privacy end when you die?

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 3:14 AM

I was reading the archives on the GPG mailing list and saw this really interesting conversation going on about what all should you put in a safe to make life simpler for your loved ones in case you die. One of people suggested that you should always put your PGP/GPG key in a safe deposit box so that if anything happens to you your documents etc can be decrypted.

This started me thinking, do I really want people to be able to read my emails/personal correspondence etc when I die? I don’t mind them having access to my financial stuff/legal papers/programs etc but I am not that comfortable with anyone reading my email’s.

The reason is not ’cause I don’t trust my family or friends, its just that my emails/documents might have some stuff that I don’t want people to know about and this cover’s not just my secret’s but other people’s information also. You might ask, What other people’s information? Its your email isn’t it?

Go through your email archive, look for any correspondance you had with a friend that is supposed to be a secret. You might be discussing a person issue with a friend or giving them advice on how to deal with something that they don’t want to have publically known. Or just something thats embarrasing for them. In my case there is a good posibility that I have archives of emails where I discuss some friend’s personal issue with them and that issue is something they don’t want to disclose to anyone. Did you find anything? I sure did. There are a lot of things that you don’t want to tell, or more accurately there are a lot of things that your friends don’t want you to tell.

So what gives me the right to disclose all this information to my survivors when I die? Just because I am dead doesn’t de-classify the information. The person whose secret it is might still want to keep it that way. So what do you do in such a case? Do you remove the ability of your family to access your emails/diaries etc to protect the secrets, denying then the pleasure of remembering you by reading stuff you wrote, your thoughts etc, or do you go ahead and tell all?

What would you do? There is no one solution for this and I am sure people can argure about this both ways. If you have some time do post a comment and let me know what you think about this issue.

– Suramya


  1. what if you were murdered? and the key to your killer lies in those documents?

    Comment by Surabhi — June 21, 2005 @ 10:09 PM

  2. Hmm… If someone murder’s me then you have other things to worry about than what I have in my documents. But its a good point. What if I die and my will is under dispute and the only way to resolve the issue is to read my personal docs, then it will be a problem if I have encrypted them and no body has the key.

    Like I said before this is something that has no right answer. There are many possibilities and all are valid in certain situations and invalid in others.

    – Suramya

    Comment by Suramya — June 28, 2005 @ 10:16 PM

  3. […] Interesting post about problems that can be caused when a person dies without sharing their passwords. I have posted about this earlier over here […]

    Pingback by Suramya’s Blog » Dying with your Passwords : Welcome to my crazy life… — October 3, 2006 @ 12:50 PM

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