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Science and Technology

What happens to your digital life after you die?


As of August, 2013 statistics show there are more than

  • one billion people using Facebook
  • 500 million on Twitter
  • 1 billion uploading and watching YouTube videos
  • 200 million with a Pandora account
  • 238 million on LinkedIn.

Those numbers are increasing daily and so is your data. CEO and founder of LifeCellar.com Stephen Bulfer estimates we will each create 88 gigabytes of data by age 75. According to Digital Beyond bloggers John Romano and Evan Carroll  this just includes what you create and share online. Just think about the monumental number of emails generated every day...247 billion of them.

Lots of content, now what?

Do you ever wonder what's going to happen to all your data when you die? NPR reports just a handful of states have laws to address digital estate management. 

  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island
  • Indiana
  • Oklahoma
  • Idaho
  • Virginia

A writer for CommLaw Conspectus suggests a broad, uniform law, "a law that can evolve along with technology is truly needed."

Consider these examples:

  1. For more than a month the mother of Anthony Cannata could not gain access to remove a photo from Facebook. The 20-year-old committed suicide and the picture he uploaded showed him holding a gun to his mouth.
  2. 22-year-old Loren Williams died in a motorcycle accident. His mother wanted access to his Facebook page but she was locked-out by administrators. A lawsuit and a two-year legal battle finally gave her access.
  3. What about emails belonging to a soldier killed in action. Should they be bequeathed to a spouse or parents? NPR contributer Omar Gallaga wants to know.

Carroll says we have 10,000 more digital photos on Facebook  than in the Library of Congress. Photos are part of a digital collection you might want to leave to somebody after you die. There are companies who help manage the assets when you die.  Planned Departure is one of them. For a monthly, yearly or lifetime fee you can name beneficiaries and the company keeps all of your accounts and passwords in a secure place.

Carroll says that makes sense if you have a really big digital life,  but a relative could also keep track of this for you. In the future he expects more states to pass laws to address digital estate management.