Apple prepping for launch of Legacy Contacts feature in iOS 15

One of the features Apple announced for iOS 15 is Legacy Contacts, a way to ensure that your digital life outlives you – if you would like it to.

The company hasn’t yet launched it, saying only that it is “coming in a software update to iOS 15,” but there are signs that Apple is preparing for its introduction …

Background

As we store more and more data digitally, a growing concern is that all of it could be lost in the event of our death. We’ve outlined in the past the risk to family photos in particular.

We’ve previously detailed some steps you can take today, including leaving device passwords and Apple ID credentials with a lawyer, alongside a copy of your will.

First of all, you may want to think about including your device passwords in a letter with a will. Without that, all the data on them may be rendered inaccessible. That could well include things with huge sentimental value, like family photos or that novel you’ve been working on […]

Your Apple ID also holds the key to everything you’ve ever bought from iTunes. Think about that. In the old days, your family could continue to enjoy your music, books and movies simply by reaching onto the shelf for a CD, paperback or DVD. But every app, every piece of music, every TV show, every movie, every book or audiobook you ever bought through iTunes is inaccessible to them without your Apple credentials. That’s a huge volume of valuable assets they can’t easily access.

But Apple is aiming to make the process a little easier with a new feature called Legacy Contacts.

Here’s how Apple summarizes the feature:

The Digital Legacy programme allows you to designate people as Legacy Contacts so they can access your account and personal information in the event of your death.

The way the feature will work is this. If you want one or more friends or family members to be able to access your iCloud data after your death, you will be able to name them, and provide them with a security key. The key will not be usable while you are alive – Apple will only activate it if supplied with proof of your death, which would normally be a copy of your death certificate.

It’s worth noting that not all of your data will be accessible, as some of it is protected with end-to-end encryption. This includes Apple Card transactions, health data, keychain entries, and browser history.

Macworld spotted two signs of readiness for launch. First, the company has updated the iCloud usage agreement.

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.

Second, Apple has a microsite for Legacy Contacts to request access to your account and devices after your death.

Request access to a deceased friend or family member’s account. If you are the legacy contact for a deceased person, you can request access to their account and have the activation lock removed from their devices.

There are links there to two support documents, but these currently redirect to the main support page.

We’ll of course publish a how-to guide as soon as the Legacy Contacts feature goes live.

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