Your Internet Data After You Die
The technological evolution that occurs has an immediate impact on our everyday lives. New habits and realities impose on us a new way of living and a variety of related questions are created. Nowadays, issues concerning our personal data arise very often in this well-established digital era that we are experiencing.
Every single day we produce digital content, which constitutes a “part of ourselves”, of our personality, our preferences and we contribute as well in the creation of our personal digital identity. As a consequence more and more people question the future of their personal data, not only during their life, but also after death or the death of their loved ones.
In France, the Data Protection Act provides us with a right to access, modify and delete our personal data. However, these rights cannot be applied to the deceased, because they belong to the category of personal rights and they are not transmitted, nor accessible to any descendants. The only solution that gives us a possibility to define the future of our data is a specific disposition in our testament where we express our will to remove, to transmit our data or to create ourselves an eternal online life.
According to CNIL official publications, more than two percent of Facebook profiles belong to deceased persons and it’s practically impossible or too hard for the social network to find out which profiles are inactive and which ones belong to dead people.
According to the Data Protection Act, the heirs of a deceased person, having justified their identity, may request the updating of the data of their loved ones by the social networks. To this end, Facebook offers the transformation of the account of a deceased person to a memorial, while other social networks, like Google, give the possibility to organize such data, putting the account in question in the lock. In February 2015, Facebook proposed a second option to its users: users could designate a person as a “legacy contact”, meaning that this person has the power to manage their account after their death. This person can respond to new friend requests, update the cover photo and profile or archive posts and photos. However, private message stay inaccessible and the status of posts cannot be modified.
Finally, the CNIL states that “when a person aggrieved by the processing of data concerning a deceased loved one, they may seek redress for the damage suffered in front of the courts”. It is the same in case of damage (damage to data, memory, reputation or honor).
Although, the problem is extended to the “digital heritage” belonging to a loved one who has died. Nowadays, it is a common habit to save photos, music and certificates in dematerialized format and to store them in the “cloud”. Nevertheless, the death of a parent imposes inaccessibility of this content to the heirs. Yet this constitutes a “loss” of their family heritage.
Therefore, a person who wants to pass this digital heritage to their family must act with caution in order to ensure that passwords will be accessible to relatives. However, terms and conditions of iTunes clearly stipulate that the account of a deceased person — attached to their credit card — will be inaccessible after the death of its user.
In conclusion, it is clear that the problems created by the end of our life are not yet solved and it is widely acknowledged that a legal reform that takes into account the permanent installation of the digital era is required.
Mona GHAFOURI ESFAHANI. Etudiante en M2 Commerce Electronique, je suis intéressée par les nouvelles technologies de l’information et de la communication. Je suis aussi passionnée par l’informatique notamment la sécurité de base de données.