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May 18, 2009



Excellent article, for some reason this is something that has been going round my head of late. What happens to all that data online when we die? Who is tasked with accessing all the various accounts we create and closing/archiving them - at least the ones that are known about. What if none of your surviving relatives are internet savvy enough to carry out your last online wishes.

Quite simply your digital footprint that you leave behind is your ultimate legacy your social media assets should be preserved, if you so wish, for future generations to research and use. I can imaging a new breed of digital future genealogists, philanthropists, and archaeologists dedicated to carrying out their research in the digital domain.

Nice one. Ian.


A real case and tragedy: Carl Backstrom used intensively the web 2.0 and his activity feeds provide a detailed picture of the things he was interested in. Then he was killed in a car accident. You can access his streams still today. Details here: www.line-of-reasoning.com/?p=159

Social networks are a new phenomenon, and the Internet itself is immature.
-Is the accessibility of those streams after death a good or bad thing?
-Is it good or bad when those accounts would be deleted (on request or
because of inactivity)?
-Transferring those accounts after death to someone else could make sense, but is an additional service provider for that the best possible answers?


I could imagine a future in which companies/individuals keep server logs that go X number of years back, and if there is enough transparency of information and with enough cross-referencing one could map a path of all outgoing and incoming requests from any user at any time in their virtual life. If the logs are there and the computing power is there, it could be quite probable. What that has to do with property, who knows. I'm sure most TOS's contain a clause that deem the data of the deceased to belong to the company that keeps the account. At least the TOS probably allows the company to seize whatever they see fit.


Looking at the Backstrom case might there be a case for specialist legislation and laws to govern this new area of what could effectively be called 'Digital Probate Law'?

One might be encouraged to Will their digital data wishes along with their physical assets. In these cases social media websites would need some kind of opt-in whereby the accounts of deceased users could be frozen and put into archive in a simlar way to public records - if the user so wished, otherwise the data will be removed?

This is a huge topic for debate.


I was really excited when I read about these services. So I wrote this essay about how these online services after death could one day evolve into a eternal life online. Check it out here. http://www.popten.net/2009/05/eternal-life-online/


Interesting article Peter, interesting to read how this might evolve online in future. Be good to know your references for the writeup.

By the way I was at a education IT services symposium last week and was pleased to hear this subject was a topic of hot debate there too. Looks like we are not the only ones discussing it.

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