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July 6, 2015 1:48 PM   Subscribe

I keep a journal. It contains my deepest, most private thoughts that no one knows, not even the people who are the most important and closest to me. What should I do now so that in the event that I die suddenly, nobody can get into it?

My journal is electronic. Currently it's saved as a Google doc, so that I can access it from any device if I want to update it on the fly. I can't password protect just that one document. Rather, I'd need to sign out of my Google account on every device, each time I'm done checking my email or working on some other document in my Google drive. There's a 2-step verification sign-in process offered by Google, but it's very cumbersome and again it won't apply to just the one document.

Is there some other safe, trusted site I can use? In the same vein, I don't know who I would appoint to go through all my devices and make sure no one can check out my online accounts. Maybe it's a weird thing to think about, but the thought of someone snooping on me after I'm dead gives me the willies. I'd also hate for people I care about to find information that hurts their feelings, or makes them think differently of me. Any advice on that, or in general when it comes to postmortem online privacy?
posted by keep it under cover to Technology (15 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Are you interested in an app? Day One is a nice journal app that syncs across devices.
posted by cecic at 1:56 PM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Kind of hacky, but could you transition your journal to something like daily emails rather than a running google doc? You could create a clean google account (totally separate email/login) and every day just email that account your journal entry. Then delete your local email's sent copy.
posted by phunniemee at 1:57 PM on July 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

Microsoft Word lets you put a password on a document just to open it. Could you use MS Word and just have it on the google drive?

Or do this... but it's for spreadsheets.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:59 PM on July 6, 2015

My journals are handwritten, not electronic, so I can't help you with the first part of your question.

As to the second...you say that no one is aware the journal even exists. Would you feel comfortable having a person knowing that it does exist, and his/her job, when you die, is to destroy it, sight unseen?

I've done this with my sister - when I die, she gets my metal strong box filled with journals I've kept since 1987. However, I'm leaving it to her to decide what to do with them - read them, burn them, give them to my son. I trust her implicitly to make the best choice.
posted by Lucinda at 2:00 PM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I could imagine writing a Google Apps Script that takes care of this if, say, someone types a specific word into a Google form. Then, you could just send a link to the form to your friend and tell them to type in "delete" or whatever word you decide together.

Technically, apps scripts just put documents in the trash instead of permanently deleting, so the best approach would be to store the file in a dummy account, make yourself an editor, and have the script remove your rights as an editor, in which case nobody would be able to access it. This also means you won't completely lose the file in case of a false alarm.

I don't want to get into too much detail, but you would write a script in the form's spreadsheet that is triggered onFormSubmit. It would check the submission for that word, and if it finds it, look for the file in your Drive and use that removeEditor(emailAddress) method to remove your rights.
posted by beyond_pink at 2:21 PM on July 6, 2015

I keep my Sekrit Stuff on an encrypted disk image on Dropbox.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:27 PM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

>What should I do now so that in the event that I die suddenly, nobody can get into it?

Don't write down your passwords and don't tell anybody what they are. Use encryption and hard passwords on your apple devices. It worked pretty damn well for my friend the Dead Guy ™ back in 2008, and it can work for you, too!

Consider, also, the circumstances of your death. If you are famous, you might have a problem, but most people die anonymously, at advanced age and far from home. It is unlikely that people will be exerting any more effort to go though your stuff than it takes for them to haul it to the curb. They might magpie the shinier bits, but that's about it.

I think your biggest problem along these lines, though, is the fact that you are telling Google everything. Do you imagine that Google isn't "reading" what you write, or that it has any compunctions about how it uses that information? Do you think Google is immune to data breaches?
posted by the Real Dan at 2:41 PM on July 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Secret google account unrelated to the current one. Don't connect it to your name and import all journal stuff. If it's not connected to your main account, it's likely that no one will know to look for it. I manage 2 Google accounts on my phone and ipad. One is my main gmail/Google acct, which I access through the app, and the other I access only through the browser. It hasn't been a problem.
posted by quince at 2:47 PM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've been using LiveJournal in this was for several years now. On my phone but the site is http://www.livejournal.com and there are settings to make each entry private, disable comments etc.
posted by EatMyHat at 3:32 PM on July 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

I am pretty sure Google has a feature for what to do with an inactive account, and IIRC one of the features is to delete the account. So you could save your things in Google Doc and make sure you enable this setting. When you pass the account will delete... in theory.
posted by terrapin at 4:35 PM on July 6, 2015

Thanks folks, as I am lazy and not very technologically literate, I've favourited the simplest solutions! I appreciate the more complex ideas though, hopefully someone else might be able to use them.
posted by keep it under cover at 9:10 PM on July 6, 2015

I came here to suggest either Tumblr or LiveJournal, since both have a private posting option and are very easy to log into from basically anywyere. LJ is basically a wasteland these days too so the odds of someone thinking "hey, maybe Cover had an LJ that's worth looking for" are pretty slim.
posted by Jilder at 2:43 AM on July 7, 2015

Don't trust an online service with your only copy of the journal. Google is especially notorious for abruptly closing down services that users depend on. Make sure you have a local backup in an encrypted ZIP file or disk image. That's why I like Dropbox: all my devices have an up-to-date local copy. SpiderOak is an alternative to Dropbox that's even more secure, but you still have to encrypt your local copy of the journal.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:01 AM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can use a service like "Death switch" Or "email from death". These services will send you an email to check if you are still a live. Once you stop responding it will send an email that you crafted in advance.
posted by Mac-Expert at 10:32 AM on July 7, 2015

As for software to keep a journal I can recommend "Day One" its works great on iOS and Mac. If you sync it trough iCloud your privacy is well protected.
posted by Mac-Expert at 10:40 AM on July 7, 2015

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