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Your Digital Life Isn't as Permanent as You Think It Is

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An old photo.

The company says the new policy is a move to increase security, since old accounts are more vulnerable to hacking, are unlikely to have two-factor authentication enabled, and tend to use less rigorous passwords.

Credit: Stephanie Arnett/MIT Technology Review/Getty Images

Robyn Caplan understands the fragility of digital memories intimately. After tragically losing both of her parents during the covid pandemic, Caplan treasures the digital possessions she inherited. She cherishes her mom's iPad, access to her dad's email inbox, and message threads with both of them. It allows her to see the world through the eyes of her parents, she says.

After Caplan moved away from her family in Canada to New York, her mom had sent a text each morning converting the temperatures in the weather report for Caplan's new city from Farenheit to Celsius along with suggestions for fun things to do that she found online. "I never actually learned Fahrenheit because I relied on this for my first 10 years here ," Caplan says.

Caplan, a researcher at Data & Society and an assistant professor at Duke University, guards her text thread with her mom fiercely. The conversation is saved in multiple ways, but she panics each time she gets a new phone, worried it might disappear.

From MIT Technology Review
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