How to settle your loved one’s digital estate

Giving up the ghost online and what it means to you

A GHOST tour in Edinburgh was where I first discovered the morbid truth about why Victorian headstones often had bells attached.

Buried by mistake? Ring urgently for service.

We’ve come a long way since then, and thanks to modern medicine can be certain when someone’s been ‘called home’ before doing the needful.

If you’re squirming a bit in your seat at the thought, it’s natural. The D word is nobody’s favourite and talking about it is the biggest slap in the face to any healthy dose of self-denial about what’s at the ‘end of the line’.

Anyway, let’s say you are doing a bit of planning and you’ve sorted out what to wear, who to invite and all that, then as a child of the Digital Age you must also put on your ‘to do’ list who can access your social media accounts and other digital assets when you’re gone.

Apparently it’s a bit of a grey area in legal circles and they want to do something about it.

At the helm is the NSW Law Reform Commission which his reviewing laws affecting life beyond your digital death.

Initially they’ve called for submissions from the legal profession and later in the year the public can throw in their two cents worth (and for those born after 1992, when the two-cent coin was demonetised, it means your opinion).

When making the review public, Attorney General Mark Speakman said: “In today’s hyper-connected world, an unprecedented amount of work and socialising occurs online, yet few of us consider what happens to our digital assets once we’re gone or are no longer able to make decisions.

“This is leading to confusion and complexity as family, friends and lawyers are left to untangle digital asset ownership issues, applying laws that were developed long before the arrival of email, blogs, social media and cryptocurrency.”

What the LRC is more worried about is who can access your digital stuff, but although it’s inappropriate to laugh at a time like this, this quote from Speakman was just a little bit ironic.

He said: “When a loved one passes away, bureaucratic hurdles and legal uncertainty are the last thing families and friends feel like confronting, so we need clear and fair laws to deal with these 21st Century problems.”

Bureaucratic hurdles and legal uncertainty are what families and friends are confronted with when a loved one passes away.

I suppose we’ve really only got ourselves to blame, being the most connected of all countries in the world. So, the review will focus on NSW, Commonwealth and international laws, including those relating to intellectual property, privacy, contract, crime, estate administration, wills, succession and assisted-decision making.

The LRC will scrutinise (their words, sounds expensive) the policies and terms of service agreements of social media companies and other digital service providers.

Facebook is at a bit of an advantage here already, having had lots of experience in this area.

On a more serious note, social media companies do handle sites of the deceased differently, from memorialising them to simply shutting them down.

Having a say in what you’d like to happen, particularly given there can be a story of a whole life recorded there, is important.

If you haven’t made arrangements for anyone to take control of your sites or access private emails, the LRC is considering whether additional privacy protections are needed.

The issue of ownership of digital assets upon death cuts across many different areas of law which is why it’s not clear and fair but complicated.

Here I was thinking I’d just leave a list of my 70,000 passwords for someone else to troll through my social media, blogs and websites if they could actually be bothered.

But really, who could forgo the opportunity to plan ahead by scheduling posts and memes to appear long after I’m gone, saying things like ‘I can see what you’re doing’ or ‘There is no Planet-B’.

Visit www.lawreform.justice.nsw.gov.au to read more.

Preparing for your digital death: Rest in peace, but leave your passwords handy

Preparing for your digital death: Rest in peace, but leave your passwords handy

Grieving relatives have reportedly asked undertakers to swipe their dead loved ones fingerprints on their digital devices in an effort to access their pictures, memories and social media accounts.

But the practice is often futile, with experts saying even if an undertaker agrees to carry it out, it only works if the body is still “slightly warm”, according to UK Law Society wills and equity chairman Ian Bond.

The message is to rest in peace — but leave your passwords handy, Mr Bond told The Times.

He said lawyers dealing with wills and probate had seen some clients go to the macabre lengths of securing a dead person’s thumbprint in an effort to retrieve photos and messages from devices like iPhones and iPads.

Mr Bond said he had heard of cases where family members were placing the hands of recently deceased persons who were “slightly warm” on mobile phones to unlock them.

“Although this sounds a bit sinister it is done with the best intentions,” he said.

It’s a problem increasingly encountered in a digital age where people conduct their lives and their business online and camera phones have replaced photo albums for storing cherished memories, says Law Society NSW president Doug Humphreys.

Leave those passwords somewhere secure, but where others can find them when you die, is the advice. Picture” Thinkstock
Leave those passwords somewhere secure, but where others can find them when you die, is the advice. Picture” Thinkstock

Source:ThinkStock

So much so that last week, NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman asked the NSW Law Reform Commission to investigate whether new laws were needed to clear up who can access data after death.

“Not many of us think about what happens to our digital assets once we’ve gone or once we can’t make decisions anymore,” Mr Speakman said.

“The last thing that bereaved families want are bureaucratic hurdles and legal uncertainty.

“The Law Reform Commission will look at whether our laws are clear and fair enough to make sure people have some certainty over what will happen to their digital assets when they die.”

LEGAL AND LOGISTICAL NIGHTMARE

While he’s unaware of specific incidents in Australia of undertakers being asked for access to the fingerprints of the dead, Mr Humphreys is well aware of the legal and logistical nightmare surviving relatives encounter if their loved one said.

“I haven’t heard directly of undertakers being asked to scan a thumbprint. The thing is, it might sound far-fetched, but I can understand why people might do it. Because people have their lives on their phones. Their pictures, their memories are all there. And unravelling that life once they are gone can mean dealing with international companies, international laws, making the whole process so much harder.”

Increasingly, digital wills are being drawn up by lawyers to include passwords and access codes.

Apple has strict privacy terms whereby unless a person knows the user’s password, they cannot open the device. Facebook doesn’t usually let anyone take over the account of someone who has died unless a user has nominated a “legacy contact”.

What’s needed, is to ensure private emails, social media accounts and digital music libraries are treated just like the concrete items like house and heirlooms are treated, Mr Humphreys said.

Apple has strict privacy terms whereby unless a person knows the user’s password, they cannot open the device. Picture: Supplied
Apple has strict privacy terms whereby unless a person knows the user’s password, they cannot open the device. Picture: Supplied

Source:Supplied

“As a lawyer — and this is advice I would have given five or ten years ago but is probably even more important now — ‘bucket file’,” he said.

“Where the questions used to be ‘where’s your will? Where are the spare keys to the house? What bank accounts do you have and where do you have them? Where are the insurance policies? What shares do your own?’ and all that sort of stuff; now you need to add your passwords, passcodes and keys to your social media and cloud accounts to the bucket,” he said.

“The logical place to put all of that stuff is probably with whoever is keeping your will. But just make sure someone knows where it is, and it’s safe, but accessible.”

Mr Humphreys said people are often reeling with sudden death, or grim diagnoses so the conversation should be had long before anyone becomes unwell.

“Like anything, this is all about actually being organised and regrettably a lot of us are not,” he said.

“We have to think about making life easier when we are gone — because one thing is certain — none of us are getting out alive,

The Law Reform Commission will report back to the Government with its recommendations, with the review process expected to take between 12 and 18 months.

Do We Ever Really Die Online?

Do We Ever Really Die Online?

Imagine a future where your great, great grandchildren are gathered around a room flicking through web pages projected into the air.

They’ve probably got holograms of their favourite artists playing in the background as they pore over your social media history, trying to piece together who their great, great grandparent was via archaic “Twitter” and “Instagram” posts.

How much of you is left, in this digital world, after you’ve ceased to exist in the real one? And how much of it is really up to you?

‘Digital death’ is one of the biggest challenges facing the tech community, one that flags up a myriad of logistical, ethical and cultural questions that designers, academics, archivists and even will writers are working to figure out. Where does our data go when we’re gone? Who gets our Bitcoins? Should our social media accounts be preserved when we die, or shut down?

Back in 2010, writer Nikesh Shukla was mourning the sudden passing of his mother. Before him and his sister had resolved how to gently break the news to the family, the moment had been broadcasted by his uncle via a short Facebook status, simply reading: ‘RIP sis’.

Years later, Shukla recalls the trauma of the incident, one he about at the time in a short story for Radio 4 called ‘Confirm/Ignore’.

“Overnight, my mum’s Facebook account kind of became a shrine,” he says. “People were leaving messages of condolences without really knowing the details. It was making me and my sister really upset so we thought, ‘Right, we’d better kill my mum on Facebook’.

“So we did: we deleted her, but not before finding out her digital footprint was harder to get rid of than we thought. Working out the processes was really difficult, and all this before we’d even had a death certificate issued.”

Prompted by distressed users like Shukla, Facebook trialled several different ways to crack the conundrum of death on its platform.

First, in 2010, it introduced a feature which allowed you to ‘memorialise’ a page – essentially freezing the person’s profile so that can’t be changed, but, depending on privacy settings, could still be commented on (the alternative was to request to remove the page altogether).

Precedent cases soon showed this to be an imperfect solution. The case of British woman Hollie Gazzard was particularly notable. In 2015, the 20-year-old was tragically murdered by her boyfriend, of whom she had posted pictures which were still visible on her profile page – pulled in automatically by Facebook’s algorithm – a whole year after her death.

After initially refusing to take them down, Facebook eventually bowed to public pressure and petitions and deleted the photos. While this appears to show the company is prepared to respond – albeit slowly – to real world anomalies, it’s worth noting it still continues to resolve such issues on a case-by-case basis with no guarantee over how long it will take.

After the Gazzard case, Facebook introduced their newest feature which allows users to pick a ‘legacy contact’: someone to manage your account after you pass away. After you’re gone, they’re able to do things like pin a post on your timeline, respond to new friend requests and update your profile picture – but won’t be able to post as you or see your messages. (You can do this by clicking Settings, Manage Account, and then selecting the ‘legacy contact’ option. The person you elect will then be sent an automatic message reading: “Hi xx, Facebook now lets people choose a legacy contact to manage their account if something happens to them…As you know me well and I trust you, I chose you. Please let me know if you want to talk about this”).

If, later, your friend chooses to absolve themselves of the responsibility of keeping your flame alive on Facebook, they can request to have your account deleted – or you can give that order to Facebook directly yourself (automated message: “Please confirm that you want your account to be deleted after your death. Once someone lets us know that you’ve passed away, all of your info, photos and posts will be permanently removed from Facebook and no one will be able to see your Profile again”).

Despite this provision, Facebook’s extremely long terms and conditions state clearly: ‘There is no provision that expressly terminates the contractual agreement between Facebook and a user who dies’.

It’s a similar story at the other giants of our online life. Google does not have a termination provision in their terms either, but it does have a similar ‘legacy contact’ system – they encourage you to nominate an ‘account trustee’ who acts much the same. Snapchat does not allow this, opting to simply make your account inactive with time. Twitter, conversely, won’t let anyone access your account in the event of your death, though the network will work with relatives to “deactivate” or delete your account – if they provide a death certificate.

Beyond the bureaucracy of how dying is processed online comes the question of how the digital world is reshaping the way in which we view death itself.

Dr Stacey Pitsillides is a lecturer in Design at the University of Greenwich, and her PHD explores the impact of digital death with particular reference to the work of psychologist Elaine Kasket, who interviewed hundreds of people for her upcoming book All The Ghost In The Machine which is about the emotion impact of death in digital spaces.

“A cultural shift has taken place where people have began not just talking about the dead, but actually quite viscerally, to the dead” says Pitsillides.

“Kasket found through her research that more and more people are leaving comments on walls rather than visiting gravestones.

“For them, profile pages are not only manifestations of a dead person, but offer a more tangible connection with them. They believe they are being ‘heard’ by the person they are grieving.”

Pitsillides herself first became interested in the subject after noticing visual representations of death in online games like Second Life, Eve Online and World of Warcraft.

“The first experience I had was with a Japanese man saying he wanted to bury his cat” she recalls. “No-one was willing to give this creature a proper memorial, and because he couldn’t find a place in the real world to honour this animal he felt very close to, he turned to the virtual world and created this online pet cemetery instead.

“He ended up turning it into a business, selling grave plots and virtual flowers and candles to people. So a personal representation of grief became a communal representation. It showed the kind of grassroots creativity that is happening around the issue.”

‘Digital Death Day’ is an annual event in California started in 2010 by a small group of academics, entrepreneurs, prominent Second Life community members, lawyers, computer scientists and funeral directors. Today, over 200 people converge to forecast trends and look for design solutions to death.

“We discuss everything from Google and digital account management to studies by international scholars,” says Pitsillides.

“The aim is to talk in an open way about how online death is affecting our industry, the ethical questions it throws up and what people might want in the real world.”

In 2016, Pitsillides curated an installation where she and others asked people in real life how they wanted to die.

“Idea ranged from people having holograms of themselves at their funeral to having their DNA spliced with a tree so they can be part of that and grow forever,” she says.

These creative ideas are fun to consider, but what about the concrete logistics? What about the questions surrounding life and finance management in a world that is changing so fast, asking who will get your Bitcoins and access your Twitter might soon be as important as who will inherit your ISA?

Fidel Beauhill is a Bristol-based will writer and advocate for encouraging people to speak about the logistics of death. His conference, titled ‘You’re All Going To Die’, offers useful advice on how to manage your affairs learned first hand from his day job – something that increasingly involves matters of digital legacy.

I tell him of a conversation I had with my family earlier in the week, inspired by researching this article, about Facebook’s aforementioned ‘legacy contact’ solution. We have conflicting positions: my mum tells me she would want to delete all my accounts, while my sister would want to keep my profile alive as a memorial ground (a 2013 YouGov survey found that 45% of 18-24 year-olds would prefer their profiles to remain online, while only 25% of over 55s felt the same). Is this something families are starting to talk about?

“It’s not a conversation that happens before people die… but it’s an argument happening more and more after people die” says Beauhill. “Unfortunately, the assets and the way these things are handled are down to the terms and conditions of the platform that you’ve signed up for, which don’t always have a duty of care.”

These terms and condition aren’t exactly designed to be easily understood by users – something Mark Zuckerberg’s recent senate hearings touched upon in no uncertain terms. Facebook’s Terms and Conditions – also known as the ‘Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and the Data Use Policy’ – consists of over 14,000 words and is updated regularly, leaving most users with scant hope of understanding exactly what rights they or their families have in the event of death. Often, it’s not the answer they want to hear.

“One things I’ve been asked about a lot by my clients recently is iTunes and Audible” he says. “Some of them have made significant investments in their music library and it means a lot to them. They ask: what happens to my iTunes account? What happens to my music and my books? Can I pass them on?

“Unfortunately, I often have to deliver bad news. Because with Apple, the stuff you buy is only licensed by you, not owned, so effectively when you die it just disappears.”

I ask him if I could feasibly write into my will that I want my mum to take over my social media account even though strictly, this is against the rules (section 4.8 of your contract with Facebook says clearly that ‘Password sharing is prohibited and users are also prohibited from letting anyone else access their account’). It’s important to note the difference to a legacy contact here – a password exchange would mean that your inbox messages can be read and they could post as you (or more sinisterly, Catfish your life after your death).

“You could” says Beauhill, “but it wouldn’t necessarily be legally binding. It would be a request, because you don’t have that power to grant full access yet… but these are questions for the future.

“Conversations around cryptocurrency like Bitcoins are starting to happen too,” he says. “How that will be dealt with will be interesting to see, because there is a myriad of platforms and digital wallets. That’s a financial asset, so that’s something that can be passed on to other family members in theory, but there isn’t a real legal precedent for Bitcoins yet”.

Beauhill maintains that there are good elements of the historical law we use today (the Wills Act 1837) but that we may need updating for a new generation – like the fact that digital wills don’t exist because in order to be valid, they need to be signed in front of two witnesses on hard paper as a safeguarding measure. These things are cultural too – and there is another conversation around how different communities openly discuss death and the logistics around it (the superstitiousness of many west African communities, for instance, or a tight-lipped British aversion to talking, all hinder how these ideas will move forward in the future).

“Perhaps that will evolve when fingerprint technology does so that you might have a video call and all three put their thumbs on at the same time,” he says, “but for now, preparation is key. My first bit of advice is to write a list of what accounts you’ve got, because family members rarely know what online bank accounts or libraries you have.”

Even if we were to settle upon a reliable system for ‘passing on’ control of our digital lives, applying real-world solutions to these digital challenges might not always work. Electing someone to be your legacy heir makes sense in that it mirrors what we do already, but what about the fallibility of humans?

Pitsillides, for one, remains sceptical. “What happens when you fall out with that person, or when that person dies themselves?” she asks. “We need to take these things into account if we want a social media that actually works when we die.”

This might be the moment to start thinking about how Artificial Intelligence can be applied in this context. Facebook, of course, already curates video montages about your life that fails to pick up on stuff you posted sarcastically, while Twitter shows you tweets in case you ‘missed’ them based on what it thinks you want to see. Despite our best attempts to curate obituaries for ourselves, it might ultimately, be the algorithms that have the final say about who we were.

Last year a journalist called James Vlahos created the ‘Dadbot’ by using hours of recorded conversations to reanimate and ‘interact’ with his father after he’d died. He transcribed 91,970 words of audio and using AI technology called PullString. Through FB messenger the bot can hold conversations and occasionally play recordings of his dad’s songs and jokes, mirroring real FB chats (many brands already use this kind of technology in their online customer services).

This idea presents one of the most pressing ethical questions of modern life: do we have a right to privacy after death? The most obvious and instinctive reaction is: yes, of course we do. Our data is ours, and ours alone. But post the Cambridge Analytica scandal, does anyone really believe this? The lines of data ownership are increasingly blurry and we know there are huge commercial – or even political – incentives for companies to try and harvest it. But what about the social and cultural argument for what to do with our data?

Back in 2010, the US Library of Congress announced that they would automatically archive all public tweets – a project that was eventually abandoned last year after the task was deemed too ‘ambitious’ – while in the UK, the British Library has demonstrated the importance of preserving digital life via online comic strips and UK Web Archiving, where they have been collecting websites since 2004 and web domains from the period of 1996-2013 ending in ‘.uk’. It’s a fascinating approach that speaks to our nostalgia for our own online footprints – wouldn’t you want to see your old MySpace profile just one more time?

Perhaps the most progressive way to think about social media is as a great, sprawling human archive of our historical moment. The way we interact, the evolution of language online, how we respond to the big news stories of our time – is there a case for saying this should all be preserved for history scholars of the future to look back on and learn from? That, for a generation with statistically less to ‘leave behind’ than those before in the way of home ownership, wealth and land, our data may be our most valuable legacy? Looking at digital death in this way, the pithy or earnest tweets we send, the Instagram pictures we post and our Facebook status updates could all, in time, become tiny breadcrumbs that allow future generations – or just those great, great grandchildren – to piece together who we once were.

Whether or not we can really ‘die’ in a digital space remains a conundrum, but what is clear is that by using small, logistical steps like storing passwords, electing legacy contacts in our wills and even taking steps to archive our data, we can try and take back some control of how we exist in the matrix: a small break from obsessing about how we’re viewed in the present to consider how we want to be remembered after we’re gone.

Digital remains should be treated with the same care and respect as physical remains

Digital remains should be treated with the same care and respect as physical remains

From live-streaming funerals to online memorial pages and even chat-bots that use people’s social media footprints’ to act as online ghosts, the digital afterlife industry (DAI) has become big business.

Our internet activity, commonly referred to as digital remains, lives on long after we die. In recent years, as firms such as Facebook and experimental start-ups have sought to monetize this content by allowing people to socialise with the dead online, the boundaries around acceptable afterlife activity and grief exploitation, have become increasingly blurry.

To date, there has been little effort to build frameworks that ensure ethical usage of digital remains for commercial purposes. However, new research from the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) suggests that the guidelines used to manage human remains in archaeological exhibitions could be used as a framework to regulate the growing industry and make the commercial use of digital remains more ethical.

The study, published in Nature Human Behaviour, was conducted by Professor Luciano Floridi, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information and Director of the Digital Ethics Lab, and Carl Öhman, a postdoctoral researcher at OII, advises that online remains should be viewed in the same way as the physical human body, and treated with care and respect rather than manipulated for commercial gain.

The paper suggests that regulation is the best way to achieve this and highlights the frameworks used to regulate commercial use of organic human remains as a good model to build on.

A document of particular interest is the International Council of Museums (ICOM) Code of Professional Ethics. The text cautions that human remains must be handled in accordance with their inviolable ‘human dignity’. Central to this concept is the fact that it applies regardless of whether the patient is aware or not – to individuals and groups alike. A factor that has proven key to the process of repatriating remains from marginalised and previously colonised groups, such as the First Nations.

The code states explicitly that human dignity requires that digital remains be seen as the informational corpses of the deceased and regarded as having inherent value. They therefore must not be used solely for commercial gains such as profit.

Carl Öhman commented: ‘Much like digital remains, archaeological and medical exhibit objects such as bones and organic body parts, are both displayed for the living to consume and difficult to allocate to a specific owner. As exhibits have become increasingly digitalised and made available online, the ethical concerns of the field appear to be increasingly merging with those of the digital afterlife industry.

‘The fact that these frameworks have proved effective is heartening and suggests that they could also be used in the same way for the DAI.’

Adopting a similar regulatory approach for the DAI would clarify the relationship between deceased individuals and the firms holding or displaying their data.

In recommending a framework for regulation the paper identifies four Digital Afterlife industries; information management services, posthumous messaging services, online memorial services and re-creation services – which use a person’s digital footprint to generate new messages replicating the online behaviour of the deceased.

While this service has yet to be adopted by mainstream technology giants, such as Facebook and Twitter, the paper finds that the services provide the highest level of online presence post-mortem. It is therefore both at risk of exploiting the grief of the loved ones of the deceased and the greatest threat to an individual’s afterlife privacy.

Professor Luciana Floridi, said: ‘Human remains are not meant to be consumed by the morbidly curious. Regardless of whether they are the sole legal owner of the deceased’s data – and irrespective of whether the opinion of their next of kin, with regulation, DAI firms would have to abide by certain conventions, such as, preventing hate speech and the commercial exploitation of memorialised profiles’.

Under these regulations, firms would be required to at the very least guarantee that consumers are informed on how their data may be used or displayed in the event of their death.

Professor Floridi added: ‘In developing a constructive ethical approach for the use of digital remains the first step is to decide to what extent, and under what circumstances, our memory of the deceased is driven and shaped by the commercial interests of the industry. The second and equally important step will be to develop a regulatory framework, commonly adopted, to ensure dignity for those who are remediated and remembered online.’

More information: Carl Öhman et al. An ethical framework for the digital afterlife industry, Nature Human Behaviour (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41562-018-0335-2

Swedish death cleaning: How to declutter your home and life

Swedish death cleaning: How to declutter your home and life

There has been a trend in recent years, both in literature and in life, for Scandinavian concepts that are encapsulated in a single word. Hygge, for example – which is Danish for cosiness, contentment or well-being – dominated the publishing industry in 2016.

Now, the new buzzword on the block is “dostadning” – a hybrid of the Swedish words “death” and “cleaning”. How much these fad words are actually a part of Scandinavian culture is debatable, but dostadning is the new phenomenon outlined in Margareta Magnusson’s The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. In Europe, the book has already occupied a good deal of reviewing space and according to Time magazine, dostadning will be the hot new trend stateside in 2018.

Magnusson’s book chimes with the current anxiety about clutter in the 21st century. Dostadning advocates the proactive and mindful clearing out of possessions before death. The idea is that it saves relatives the onerous task of making decisions about what to keep and what to throw or give away. The book reflects the simple fact that we are all living longer lives. This results, of course, in more stuff.

Digital death

But it also means we have more time to get rid of things. We can start planning for our death by slimming down what we leave behind – shedding unnecessary objects in favour of what we actually need. It is the antithesis, perhaps, of the ancient Egyptian tradition of being buried with things that might accompany us into the afterlife.

Magnusson’s top tips for dostadning focus mostly on material possessions – though she suggests keeping a book of passwords for family so they can access online data more easily. But this is no straightforward task, given that more and more of our data – photos, letters, memories – as well as actual things – music and books – exist in digital rather than analogue form. And as more of our lives are logged and lodged virtually, chances are our relatives might not be able to access it.

“Don’t mind me, just writing down all my passwords for when I die”.
Shutterstock

A documentary about this precise issue aired recently on BBC Radio 4. My Digital Legacy was part of the We Need to Talk about Death series and featured terminally ill patients with an extensive digital footprint who rely on the internet – especially on social media – to connect to the world around them. The programme also heard from bereaved relatives who experienced difficulties in accessing data, including Facebook profiles, of loved ones after their death.

The death manager

My recent short story How To Curate a Life, published by Storgy Books in the anthology Exit Earth, deals with precisely this issue. Set in the not too distant future, the parents of a young woman killed suddenly in an accident try to commission Jesse – a “digital death manager” – not to curate her life but to erase it: to gain access to her files then destroy them.

In this fictional world where everyone is required to dictate the terms of their digital estate, it is illegal for Jesse to tamper with the girl’s online content. And yet, the financial reward would mean freedom from his desk bound job forever.

The concept of decluttering before you die is apparently part of Swedish culture.
Shutterstock

The story grew from an idea I found online about careers that will be ubiquitous in the future. Digital death management, it seems, is definitely set to become “A Thing”. And just as we now commission solicitors or will writers to oversee our material estate – there will come a time when people will also hire someone to clean up their digital footprint

In our already busy lives, does tending to our online existence give us one more thing to do? Perhaps so. But it’s about taking responsibility for our own stuff. If we don’t make the decisions about what to keep or discard – whether actual or online – then ultimately others will need to. And if we don’t leave clear directions about where to find our digital content, it makes things tougher for everyone.

As Magnusson writes, death cleaning is “a permanent form of organisation that makes everyday life run smoothly”. What better legacy to leave behind than to ease the bereavement process for the ones we love?

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.