Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dead or Alive? There's an API for that

This week's Time Magazine has a piece by Gaelle Faure entitled "How to Manage Your Online Life When You're Dead" which describes what happens to online profiles, Webmail, and social networking data when someone dies. Consider "Deathswitch":

Deathswitch, which is based in Houston, has a different system for releasing the funeral instructions, love notes and "unspeakable secrets" it suggests you store with your passwords and account info. The company will regularly send you e‑mail prompts to verify that you're still alive, at a frequency of your choosing. (Once a day? Once a year?) After a series of unanswered prompts, it will assume you're dead and release your messages to intended recipients. One message is free; for more, the company charges members $19.95 a year.

But did you know there is an API for checking if someone is dead or not? It's called the Death Index API, provided by CDYNE against the US Govt Social Security Death Index. Using this API would negate the need for "e‑mail prompts to verify that you're still alive".

Although this is a morbid example, it's a good example of a Cloud API service which can be composed together with other Cloud and on-premises services into banking, credit card application, and insurance applications.