Apple Announces iCloud+ with new Digital Legacy Feature

Today Apple had their annual World Wide Developers Conference event which was streamed live. One of the many announcements included the launch of a new digital legacy feature as one of several as part of the newly named iCloud+ service that will carry the same pricing.

It’s great that Apple chose to use “digital legacy” as the feature name continuing to add awareness and solidify the term to the lexicon. You can view the short announcement in the video below which takes you directly to it from the event.

Digital legacy section starts at 17:19 if video doesn’t start at that time.

As you can see there wasn’t much detail in this announcement. It only lasted 14 seconds. However I was able to glean some information from analyzing the screenshots that were provided.

Screenshot of Apple’s digital legacy setup and access features on mobile
Screenshot of Apple’s digital legacy options for accessing data

You can select a legacy contact which will grant a person access to you iCloud data in the event of your death. It appears that selection is based on existing contacts with the option to also select someone else. However access will require your legacy contact to have an Apple ID (see below). So it will be important to make sure that non-Apple legacy contacts that are designated do this ahead of being added.

Request access appears to be the process for legacy contacts to gain access to data. This requires proof by supplying a death certificate and subsequent approval from Apple. Once approved you are granted access to the iCloud data along with removing the activation lock for any related Apple devices.

Accessing data screen appears to show which Apple services you have been granted access to along with devices.

  • Access granularity or whether you can select different services for different legacy contacts is not clear. Only buttons showing Web and Apple Device access are shown for all services.
  • You will have access to view data granted to you on icloud.com and have the ability to download the data
  • You can also restore icloud backup data to an iOS or iPadOS device as well as on a Mac.
  • Access is not granted to payment information, subscriptions, licensed media, or Keychain. This access may not be available to designate to any legacy contacts but this is not clear.
  • Access is limited for a specific period of time with a deadline date for when all data will be permanently deleted

In the last screenshot I saw that the URL in the browser was https://digital-legacy.apple.com/ so I decided to try it out. It already works and took me to my Apple ID login. Once logged in I was presented with digital legacy page to delete my account. I did not pursue this path further and I’m not sure what the next steps would have been. I am not sure if this was existing or new functionality as I haven’t gone through Apple’s current functionality before. However, upon logging out from that page I got a digital legacy specific message and login that took me back to the same page if I logged back in. Below are screenshots from the process.

Doing some searching this is the only information I could find on Apple’s site which was actually related to the Mac OS Monterey preview announcement and tied to Apple ID.

Digital legacy details provided in the Mac OS Monterey preview announcement

Overall I’m really excited that Apple has added this critical functionality for all its users and creating more awareness regarding our digital legacy. I’m looking forward to testing out this functionality which was stated as being released later this year without a specific date. It will be interesting to see the full capabilities of what they will offer regarding data shared with the legacy contacts. I’m also curious of the level of granularity and permissions that will be provided for individual services.

One of my biggest questions / concerns is how this will work if you designate someone who lives outside of the Apple eco-system as your legacy contact. For example my Wife uses an iPhone while I am an Android / Windows user. Beyond requiring an Apple ID, I’m not sure what other limitations there may be for this scenario.

Originally published at https://digitallegacymanagement.com.

I blog about personal data preservation & digital legacy at digitallegacymanagement.com and other topics at krynsky.com