Apple’s Digital Legacy program allows iPhone users to add one or more contacts to access and download certain data in iCloud after their death. The program was first announced at Apple’s WWDC event earlier this year and is now rolling out with the latest iOS 15.2 beta update. At present, the deceased person’s iCloud data goes with them even with a death certificate.
With the new iOS update, Apple users can designate up to five people as ‘Legacy Contacts’ on devices such as iPhones, iPads and Macs. These ‘Legacy Contacts’ after providing proof of death and an access key will automatically get access to certain data stored on iCloud.
“If your designated contacts provide proof of death to Apple and have the required key, they will automatically obtain access to that certain account data and activation lock will be removed from all your devices,” according to Apple’s iCloud terms webpage. It is thus a user’s responsibility to keep their Digital Legacy contacts up to date, the company further says.
How Apple users can set up a legacy contact

  • Go to Settings > [your name] > Password & Security on your iPhone. Mac users can go to System Preferences > Apple ID > Password & Security.
  • Look for Legacy Contact here and follow the instructions to add a Legacy Contact. If you already use Family Sharing, you can choose a family member from the list. Alternatively, you can add people using their email or phone number.
  • Next, notify your Legacy Contact and share an access key via Messages. If they accept, a copy of the access key is automatically stored in Apple ID settings. If they decline, you will get a notification.

Rivals like Google and Facebook already offer this right of survivorship to their users. Twitter, on the other hand, works with a person authorised to act on behalf of the estate, or with a verified immediate family member of the deceased to have an account deactivated in case of the demise of a user. However, it does not provide account access to anyone “regardless of their relationship to the deceased”.

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