Death and the Internet - Managing Digital Legacies

12 November 2015 - A Workshop on Other in João Pessoa, Brazil


Previously, our legacy was simple. With our belongings in the family home, complexity only arose when allocating very tangible assets fairly amongst our heirs. Now, with an increasingly digital life, the question is changing from who gets what, to where is what, as our heirs take on the complex task of unravelling our vast digital footprint. There are many fascinating and complex issues in planning our digital legacy, but a distinct lack of guidance available for our loved ones when the inevitable happens. Questions of privacy, access and inheritance are presently unresolved and societal attitudes unclear. The secrets once undiscovered until after finding Grandma’s stash of letters can now wind up spread across social media or exposed in public databases.

The issues the bereaved need to navigate are becoming ever more complex and urgent. They need to locate digital assets and records and navigate through complex contractual and technology challenges to resolve ownership issues and to produce meaningful and dignified records. These issues cross regional and national borders, where legislation varies considerably. To resolve the issues, at least one state of the USA has now enacted legislation and it is likely that other governments elsewhere will in the future.

This workshop will expose the many legal and social questions around access to a person’s digital life after death: what rights should heirs have and what rights do they have? This forum will highlight the issues for legislators and consumers, and explore ways of assisting people in planning their digital legacy.

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