We’re all going to die, so we have to share passwords.
When family die, we already have a mountain of nonsense to deal with, and I have no doubt that we’ll see a growing number of people wrestling with American corporations, attempting to regain access to Coinbase accounts, banking apps, et c.
Clearly, we would all have an easier time by simply sharing some master password. Most of use have password stores nowadays, so we may as well. A piece of paper, with the master password written down, in a favoured book, should suffice. It’s not as secure as it might be, but at least if the house is robbed, everyone would know to reset that password post-haste.
Corporations & Death
One solution here might be secondary access - access granted to another person, available only once the user has no logged in for two months. Of course, we couldn’t leave this up to corporations such as Google. Whenever they offer services, they end up slicing those services into packages (one loved one for silver members, three for gold members, and a machine-learning-powered auditor for platinum members). The bereaved family members would then have to investigate one service after another, going through each process one by one, with a company dealing exclusively with non-customers after their actual customer has died.
Corporations would also have a disincentive to share valuable resources. I’m guessing almost ever owner of a Coinbase account who has died has left their money to the company, to continue to use in portfolios, if not to spend immediately. Few family members will understand crypto-currencies enough to seek out the money, and even those that do probably won’t be terribly motivated unless they know the amount warrants the hassle.
Thoughts on a Better Solution
I think we should start with a classic tech-head solution, and worry about slapping on a usable interface later.
My suggestion is this:
Create a locked file with all passwords, such that any 2 out of 3 keys can unlocked it, then leave it public.
This means if one trusted key-bearer dies, we have two others, but we don’t have to trust everyone’s security, sanity, or intentions.
I don’t know of any encryption which requires x out of y keys, but we can easily make do with GPG keys. Take keys for Alice, Bob and Charles, then encrypt all passwords so Alice can read them. Take the resulting file, and encrypt it so that only Bob can read it.
We then repeat, encrypting for B -> C, then C -> A. With this triangle structure, any two of the three could then decrypt the keys.
We could do the same for two out of four people, using a crossed-square shape, or two out of five, using a pentagram.
A A ___ /`\ .-'` /\ B.----/---\----.C B.'_____/__\______. C `'./ \.'` `._ / \ _.` /`'.'.'`\ `/ \' /,-` `-,\ / `-..-' \ D ` ` E / .-'`-. \ ./.-' `-.\. D `-..______..-' E 2/5 keys 3/5 keys
A similar process could be done for 3 out of 5 gpg keys (right).
The entire process can be automated, and best of all, the recipients don’t need to know each other. When decrypting a file, gpg will state the key ID it’s encrypted for.