There were many great talks at the first ever Talk UX conference, all of which triggered some thought processes regarding how we design for our users and how we show information to them. But after listening to Alberta Soranzo tell stories of death and what happens to our digital self in the afterlife and how she felt about about it, it made me think. In fact it probably made everyone in the room think about our digital selves.
Where Do You Exist?
Listing online services that don’t allow you or your loved ones to remove your account after your passing made me think of how much information about me is actually out there, and how difficult it would be to seek out all that information in accounts we’ve signed up to and have since forgotten about.
One such service is Ello, similar to Google+. It made a strong appearance but didn’t hang around for long. Many people signed up but how many still use it? How many other services have you signed up to but don’t use and have since forgotten about?
So like Alberta, if you wished to be remembered for who you were in the real world and want your entire digital self to be removed without a trace, you and your family would have a hard job removing every last trace. And that’s before you take into account whether or not you or your family are even allowed to remove the account, because if you’re not the account holder and don’t have a password for the account, some companies will refuse access, sometimes even under the presence of a court order.
One company who do offer some form of digital exorcism is surprisingly, Google. They have designed a way for you to pass on your account rights over to a trusted 3rd party; your parents, sibling or loved one, or delete your account completely upon your inevitable death which is determined by a predefined period of inactivity. Once this period has passed they assume you’re dead, how nice.
Do You Want to Live on in the Digital Afterlife?
If your answer is no, then we need to convince our information holders; social networks, blogs, all those random services you signed up to, to start designing ways to give us the choice to vanish from the digital world.