According to a survey by Goldsmiths at the University of London, 1 in 10 people in the U.K. leave social networking passwords in their will. The survey also showed that more than a quarter of the subjects have digital media (music, videos, etc.) that they feel the need to pass on to family members. Ever since personal computers and digital cameras became household necessities, the days of inheriting photo albums have been essentially over. It’s funny to think that the days of inheriting hard drives may have come and gone so fast.
Digital inheritance is becoming a bigger and bigger issue, one that is inextricably tied into the right to be forgotten, but also digital immortality. Often Facebook pages of the deceased will turn into digital shrines, but may languish, or be spammed, making it important for someone to still have the password. Also, you may not want that thing around forever, so it’s important to have a family member around to save the good stuff and shut it down.
Where inheritance and the digital identity of the dead is going is anyone’s guess; it seems to be heading down two completely separate tracks at the moment. On the one hand, you have the right to be forgotten. A law has been proposed in the European Union (and exists in various forms in several countries across Europe) that would afford individuals the right to remove their personal data from any online services that hold it. While this right isn’t exclusively upon death, it certainly applies there where it seems that the deceased should be able to have their data from various networks permanently deleted upon their demise.
On the other hand, there are plenty of websites and services springing up that address the idea of digital immortality through various means like headstone QR codes that lead to Internet shrines or services that allow you to program an avatar that is intended to communicate on your behalf after your death.
Either way, it’s interesting to see that people are starting to have the foresight to leave passwords in their wills. I certainly never considered that, but then again, I think about my own mortality as infrequently as possible. Still, makes you question that old adage “never write down your password” but the times, they are a’changin.
- Son has a QR code etched on his mother’s grave
- Spain has gone up against Google over the right to be forgotten