Site passes on final messages from the dead
A Web service that promises to deliver messages to users’ loved ones after death has raised concerns over potential legal and security problems.
Yizhu. cn allows people to store letters, photos and important documents to be passed on to friends and relatives after death, leading some people to call it an “online will”.
Members must log in on a regular basis. If they fail to do so, website staff members will send e-mail reminders, phone the users, and even contact relatives to check up on them.
Beijing Join World Network Technology Co Ltd, which set up the website in 2010, charges 99 yuan ($16) a year for the service.
Li Jia, the company’s CEO, said the idea came to him after a terrifying plane ride.
“The turbulence was so strong I was sure we would crash,” he recalled. “After, I realized I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to say goodbye to my family or tell them some valuable information, such as the passwords for my bank accounts.”
The website has more than 280,000 members and the number is increasing by almost 1,000 a day, according to Li, who said users are mainly from Southeast China, with about 20,000 in Fujian province. Ages range from 20 to 50, he said.
An IT worker in Fuzhou who did not want to be identified said he signed up because life is full of uncertainties.
“I have left my bank account details and other messages I think my loved ones need to know,” he said. “It’s not about being scared, it’s about making preparations so I won’t have regrets.”
To many people, particularly those with a strong belief in Chinese superstition, the service is inauspicious.
Civil servant Guan Lizhao in Fuzhou said, “Making a wish and putting it online when I’m still healthy is like I’m getting ready to die.
“Plus, I wouldn’t allow a website to handle important information such as my bank account details.”
Yang Chaojiang, a lawyer in Nanjing, was also concerned about the legality. He said online wills are not recognized by China’s Inheritance Law, and “without validity for the service, it may lead to some disputes.”
CEO Li insisted that security is the No 1 priority for his company, explaining the website is protected by top encryption software.
However, he added the “online will” tag is inaccurate, as people can do much more than simply store personal information.
Users can write love letters, overdue apologies, or a list of instructions for someone left behind, he said.
“The site is about sending positive messages,” Li said.