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Internet site offers clients after-death e-mail service
Updated: 2004-09-25 23:09

E-mail from beyond the grave? Not exactly.

But a Spanish Internet company is breaking fresh ground on the Web by offering people the chance to write one last e-mail, complete with video clip or photo attachments, and send it to loved ones, friends or even enemies after the person who wrote it is dead.

"Most people leave notes behind in drawers or boxes knowing or hoping they will be found after they die. This is the same, but via Internet," said Alberto Iriarte, 33, director of Global Spectrum, the Pamplona-based company which runs the service.

He said that the site, with English, Spanish and Portuguese versions, has been running since January but only really began to take off in July.

More than 300 people have signed up so far, the majority of them from Spain, Brazil and the United States, he said.

"We're getting some 200 hits a day, of which an average of two become clients," Iriarte told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from the company's office in Brazil.

The site offers four plans, which range from a free service that allows users to send just one e-mail, to a lifetime membership that allows for unlimited e-mails and megabytes of storage space, but can cost up to 200 (US$240).

Mid-range packages cost between 9 and 18 (US$11-22) a month until users die. In the meantime, they can update and rewrite those final farewells as often as they like.

"People find computers more intimate and private than letters and they feel freer to say things this way," said Iriarte, a Pamplona-born computer engineer.

"Some people say we're trying to make money out of death, but it's not like that," Iriarte said. "We see it as trying to help people get over the grief."

Strict privacy is guaranteed by powerful encryption algorithms and a personal password of 128-bits to which only the client, and not the Web site, has access.

Global Spectrum unleashes a client's e-mails once it is notified and confirms that the person is dead. On signing up, clients are given a document to be placed with a trustee who will use it to inform the company of the client's death.

"not a substitute for a will," said Iriarte. "It's a modern version of that drawer or box where we have always left our letters."

Clients, however, have to take Global Spectrum's word that, unlike them, it will still be around to send the e-mails and won't have perished into cyberspace.

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