We’ve all got personal information that we don’t carry around with us but regularly or occasionally need to find. Often it’s also information we are concerned that we don’t lose, e.g., in the event of a computer crash, house or office fire or theft, etc.
- A copy of our driver’s license, passport, or other identification documents
- Copies of credit cards
- Passwords for key online accounts, including account numbers for financial ones
- Key personal documents, like Power of Attorney documents (our own, or one giving us PoA), Health Care Directives and Proxies, wills, marriage license, etc.
- Medical history, including current prescriptions, health insurance, and list of physicians
- Inventory list of computer, camera, phone and other gear, including serial numbers
- Software license keys
- Travel itineraries.
- Photos of yourself, family members, pets.
Some of this information is important but not “sensitive” — meaning that when you need it, you need it, but if somebody else were to get hold of it, no big deal. My guess is that software license keys might fall into the “less sensitive” arena. But even where information isn’t inherently sensitive, it might lead to some other aspect of your work or personal life being compromised, through savvy “social engineering” (phishing or other personal identity attacks). Some file types allow themselves to be individually password protected, such as PDF and ZIP files (depending on the tool being used to create it).
Once digitized, it’s possible to put this on your smartphone, tablet, or on a USB flash drive on your keyring — carefully protected, of course, by an encryption tool like TrueCrypt or 1Password. But this assumes you have the device or your keyring with you — which, depending on circumstances, may not be the case.
Fortunately, with the ever-greater accessibility of the Internet, you can park one or more copies online, often at no cost.
Two quick tips, first:
- Include an inventory document of what documents/information you’ve put together.
- Make a list of where you do end up parking copies — so when the master set of information gets updated, you can propagate the new version to all the places you’ve parked copies.
Ways and Places to Park Your Data and Documents Online
- Email them to yourself. Leave them in your INBOX, or in a mail folder that you can get to from web browser. This requires remembering your email password, but that’s the one you’re most likely to remember.Caution: If you use a mobile device or notebook to check your email, include encryption on the attached document(s), and/or other safeguards, like requiring the email password for each session.
- Park them in a password-protected directory in your web site.
- And don’t forget the directory name or password. Consider putting a hint in a file that you can find to bootstrap you in.
- Park them in a password-protected directory on your cloud storage space. (Again, be sure you’ve encrypted the actual files, individually, as well).
- If you have set up remote access to your computer, meaning you can access it from another computer, tablet or smartphone, e.g., using a remote desktop tool like GoToMyPC or LogMeIn.
- Send them to a friend or family member (again, as encrypted attached files) — pick someone who’s online often enough that they’re likely to respond quickly to a “Please send me those files ASAP” request.
And I’m sure there are lots of other places, ranging from social 2.0 accounts to “online safety deposit boxes.” Do a web search for “online safety deposit boxes,” for example, and, in addition to ones intended for your own immediate use, you’ll find ones designed to provide access only in the event of your death.
One final suggestion: Even if you do park the data online, you might still want to carry a password-protected encrypted copy with you — for those times when you’ve got your wallet, smartphone or keychain, but don’t have Internet access.