Monday, November 29, 2010

Who gets your email account when you die?

Our lives are becoming more virtual by the day with email, social networking, internet banking accounts and digital photo albums and data stored on our PCs, but what of death? Who gets access to those passwords and usernames? Who can log on as the digital heir? This is why everyone needs a digital will. This is the document that bequeaths a person's digital assets to his heirs.

How can this be done? The first step is to create a digital inventory – an index of your "soft" assets. Second, get your digital signature authenticated. "Then, it won't take more than a day and a couple of thousands (of rupees) to have your digital will ready," says Supreme Court advocate Pavan Duggal, who specializes in cyber law.

Duggal says a digital will is important because there have been many disputes about digitized data in recent times. "Most of us never think about making arrangements to name an heir for our digital assets, and it becomes a Herculean task for legal representatives to get a succession certificate for such data. It could take years in court." There have been fights over a dead writer's manuscript on his PC, a deceased photojournalist's digital photo library and a businessman's financial records in his email account.

Service providers have different policies about passing on digital information after an account holder's death. For example, Yahoo! terminates accounts and Google, which manages Gmail (email), Orkut (social networking) and Picasa (online photo-sharing), gives conditional access to kin.

Google India spokesman Gaurav Bhaskar says, "Account details of a deceased can be passed on only to someone who furnishes proof of authority under local law that he is the lawful representative of the deceased, and presents the death certificate and other documents. The process may take up to 30 days."

But most people, says Mumbai-based cyber behaviour expert Neeta Mehra, don't want personal stuff such as email, social networking accounts or blogs to be passed on. "To avoid this, one can use the services of 'do-it-yourself account guardian' websites where one can upload all secret data and opt for account incinerator services (getting your account deleted in the event of death)," she says. Such websites need a death certificate and a copy of the obituary. However, they are not governed by any law.

Duggal says Indians are gradually waking up to this issue. "For the first time in India, in April, a Delhi businessman opted for a digital will. Since then, six more have followed suit. Many have approached me to discuss their digital estate and to make their wills."

Courtesy: Times of India, 21 November 2010, Divya A, TNN

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Media: Time to tame it by Vineet Madhukar

The Twentieth century is responsible for a lot of things. That part evil, part awesome thing called globalization has given us a lot to chew upon…Literally.

Now take for example the Web 2.0: a tiny word with a massive world behind it. There is no limit to the scope the virtual world offers us. A plethora of information and knowledge with capacity to store even more! There is no better way to reach out to the target audience and connect with various stakeholders unless we take over their dreams.

But most of us neither understand the significance of New Media nor do we realise its tremendous power. Like the rest of the newbies, this medium too is a child of the Twentieth century. Broadly termed ‘New Media’ or the ‘Digital Media’ in PR parlance, to distinguish it from other forms of media; it has since its inception, turned the world on its head. To put it simply: New Media is the perfect blend of Print and Broadcast media with the added advantage of its global reach, much longer shelf-life and on-the spot –feedback from the viewers

One feature that distinguishes New Media from other forms of journalism or media is its ability to constantly update itself. Unlike the world of the printed paper where words once printed, cannot be changed and unlike the world of television and broadcast which can only showcase moving pictures; New Media has no such hassles. In case you still haven’t got what I’m trying to point out: it has the elements of traditional media forms like videos, films, still images, music and the written word along with the added advantage of the communications technology of a computer.

Take the example of micro-blogging sites like Twitter, Digg, Facebook or MySpace. Now skeptics might scoff at what on first glance seem like networking sites for the every young or the very bored…wrong on both counts. The ‘Pink Chaddi’ campaign is proof that if you have publicized right, you have campaigned right.

Unlike in other streams, through the internet you reach out to even those audiences that traditional marketing misses. Even if you are only connected to a group of close friends on a blog or a networking site, through them you are also connected to hundreds of potential target audience. You never know who might ‘share a link’ or ‘social bookmark’ your blog post ultimately creating that new clientele base you had hoped for. Add to this the one-to-one interaction with end user through their comments which in turn gives you the opportunity to improve your products and services as per public demand and it seems like sunshine on the desktop!

But beware! Social media marketing is more demanding than any high maintenance socialite you could think of. The content needs to be supervised constantly, correctly and updated as demands change. You need to be on the top of your game because your Public Relations strategy is there for all to see...or steal. It will also invoke criticism from rivals and critics alike. The Web 2.0 in other words is no docile Indian house-wife. She is demanding, fast, ever-changing and extremely moody. High time we learnt to tame it.