It's been a rough couple of years for a lot of people. Mac 911
has received many dozens of emails from people who have lost a
child, parent, relative, or other loved one, and are locked out of
accounts that contain that person's digital footprint. These
accounts may contain every picture and video they've ever captured,
email, critical bits of family history, important legal and
financial documents, and much else.
Apple said during its June 2021 Worldwide Developer Conference
that it would allow iCloud users to set a Legacy Contact, people
who could be appointed by you ahead of time to have permission to
access data that is synced through and stored on iCloud.com. (Many
kinds of iCloud data are protected at a device level, and wouldn't
be available. Apple offers a complete list of both kinds.)
Previously, I've offered advice on both preparation before you
or someone else passes away or becomes incapacitated, and what you
might be able to do to access accounts after someone can no longer
give permission. See these columns:
Legacy Contacts isn't yet available, even with the release of
iOS 15 and iPadOS 15. With the 15.1 versions of both coming in the
near future with additional feature updates and the near-term
release of macOS 12 Monterey, I expect to see the option crop up
soon. This article will be updated when that happens.
Digital Legacy, but it appears to be coming in an update later in
2021 to its operating systems.
When it's available, I expect it will work just as the new
iCloud Data Recovery Services does today. In iOS 15 and iPadOS 15,
that feature is found in Settings > Account Name >
Password & Security > Account Recovery. This feature lets
you pick people from your Family Sharing group or invite others to
act as emergency backups. Legacy Contacts will take that a step
But you can see traces of Legacy Contacts already, as Apple has
updated some parts of its sites and agreements, but hasn't yet
taken everything live.
In Apple's iCloud usage agreement, you can see a new
passage about it:
With Digital Legacy, you can choose to add one or more contacts
to access and download certain data in your account after your
death. 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. Thus, it is your responsibility to keep your
Digital Legacy contacts up to date.
This provision references two Apple support documents that are
currently unpublished. The Digital Legacy recovery site is also up
and running at digital-legacy.apple.com, even though the feature
can't be enabled.
Legacy Contact is a big step forward for Apple, which previously
said that when someone was gone, their account was null and void,
and could be deleted without warning or recourse. Now, people will
be able to add iCloud estate planning to other preparations.
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