I’ve heard this saying more than once—“If I die, delete my browser history”. The same thought probably extends to the files and data in your phone or laptop, and even more so for your iCloud. However, data stored on your iCloud is extremely difficult to extract as according to its terms and service the deceased’s account would be terminated upon confirming the death. Luckily, Apple is making it easier for you to pass your data to people you trust when you kick the bucket.
Apple previously announced the Digital Legacy program earlier this year through WWDC 2021. With the upcoming iOS 15.2 update, users can designate up to five people as something called Legacy Contacts. This means that these people would then be able to access your data and personal information stored in iCloud when you die—which includes photos, documents, and even purchases.
To set up Digital Legacy, you need to make sure that you running iOS 15.2. If you’re on iOS, go to Settings, tap your own name, and go to Password & Security. On a Mac, you can go to Password & Security by going to System Preferences, and then to Apple ID. You’ll be able to find Legacy Contact under Password & Security.
Under Legacy Contact, follow the instructions to add a contact. If you use Family Sharing, you can choose a family member from the list; alternatively, add someone using their email or phone number. You’ll then be able to notify your contact and share an access key via Messages.
If they accept, a copy of the access key would be automatically stored in their own Apple ID settings. But if they decline, you will receive a notification. However, if you can add a Legacy Contact who isn’t on iOS 15.2, they won’t be able to store the access key in the settings on their device—so you would need to provide it to them in another way.
The access key itself is required to get into your account if you pass away, which Apple requires in addition to the proof of death. Still, it’s a much more simplified process than before—which could require a court order confirming a right to inheritance. Even after all that, you might not even get the data.
Apple is only now starting to catch up with Google and Facebook, as they both already have systems that let other people access your account when you pass away. But even if you don’t, Facebook lets friends and family request the memorialisation of a profile or how to request the removal of a deceased person’s profile.