What happens to your digital life after death? There are well defined laws for personal and intellectual property, grounded in centuries of history. Facebook pages and blog archives are a different matter.
Voice of America explores the issue by looking at the stories of families trying to gain control of deceased family members’ digital content. Facebook will “memorialize” accounts of the deceased, allowing visitors to view old pictures and messages, but many features are restricted. Accounts can be closed if Facebook receives a formal request that “satisfies certain criteria,” but what those criteria are is unclear.
In some cases, managing digital content can be impossible, whether a person is dead or alive. Skype accounts, for instance, can never be deleted. Issues of who owns digital content, who can access it and what happens when a person is gone, are new concerns that are yet to be resolved.
The United Kingdom has the Data Protection Act 1998, a bill of rights designed to protect people from having their personal information abused. While the act is not perfect — it’s sometimes accused of being too complex or ambiguous — the United States has yet to enact a similar law.