A lot of personal life is digital and should be protected to stay private.
But in case of a medical emergency, like being unresponsive in hospital, maybe being in a coma for a few years (possibly waking up afterward) or dying, one may want to share some information with relatives. An example would be:
When I am unresponsive in hospital, please use the following login to renew my payments for service x, z, y, so they do not get canceled.
When my emergency takes longer than four weeks, please inform these people: A (a@mail), B (b@mail). Please also notify people I am chatting with in the private chat C. My login (please keep it secret!) is user:password
In case of my death, please also inform D, E, F and delete my accounts G, H. The needed usernames and passwords are (...)
Or something along these lines. I guess writing the actual digital last will is a huge task by itself, but the problem that comes before is how to protect it until it is needed on the one hand and make sure your non-technical relatives can access it on the other hand.
Just having a letter stored at home and informing one's relatives is one option, but someone may steal it and get a lot of access rights and personal information, e.g., about private contacts that you did not want others to know about, except in emergencies.
Schemes like Shamir's secret sharing are probably one way to protect it, but they are both technically challenging (think about the average user), even the concept is hard to grasp for some, people may lose their share of information or not cooperate, and when one makes it too complicated, people think you're paranoid or at least strange.
Finally, one should be able to update the information. This would, for example, mean sharing a password and an URL, so you can upload the updated encrypted information each time you're adding something. This not only exposes the (encrypted) list but also poses a risk of being unreliable. Maybe one did not check if the URL still works, and for some reason, the site you chose to host the list deleted it. Then people will find the instruction and password but not be able to download the information.
What are good ideas to share sensitive information with non-technical persons, such that it can only be accessed in emergencies?
- Web services like Google allow you to define what happens to an account after your death. This solution would, for example, allow you to store a list with all necessary information in your mailbox.
On the other hand, you need to trust Google not to abuse it (most people are probably not a target of people who may have access, trust Google to verify the necessary documents and trust Google not to have security incidents in which people may access your mailbox and your list with everything needed to take over your online life.
- Building yourself some kind of dead man switch. This is an option that both needs a lot of maintenance and a lot of care not to trigger false positives or false negatives, as both have grave implications.
- Some companies offer to handle such cases. I didn't look up the current offers, but there are companies who provide this service as far as I know. But here, you need both to trust the company and its security a lot because everyone knows that such a company stores are a lot of sensitive data that may be of interest for either misusing it or extorting its owner.