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Digital Estate, Digital Estate Planning, Digital Estate Planning Checklist, Estate Planning, End-of-Life Services, Digital Death Your Free Digital Estate Planning Checklist When planning your digital estate, there are many different types of assets and other variables to consider. The checklist below is a good starting point for you to […]
Can someone inherit a digital identity? At what point does an Instagram account become a business rather than a personal platform? We have already seen this happen with celebrities after they die; Paul Walker, Nipsey Hussle, and Michael Jackson all still have active Instagram accounts. The deceased rapper, Lil Peep, has faced significant controversy over his social media. As I write this, his most recent Instagram post is advertising new merchandise. While some argue that his family is aiming to continue his legacy, others argue that selling sweaters for $95 USD is simply an easy way to profit off Peep’s death.
But what if a celebrity passed away without the public knowing? Could someone run their accounts feigning that the person was still alive? Let’s take a look at Kylie Jenner – she makes approximately $1.2 million per sponsored Instagram post that she shares to her 197 million followers. In the two minutes it takes you to read this blog, she will have made around $633.53. If Kylie died, could someone inherit her account, followers, and digital personality? Between the power of digital image editing and the sheer number of selfies Kylie has taken, her account could hypothetically be run for years after her death. Kylie Jenner may be temporary, but @kyliejenner is immortal.
Who knows? Maybe this has been happening for years, and they are doing a good job of hiding it. Conspiracy? I think not.
For most of us, celebrity or not, our social media presence is an extension of who we are. While our biological body may have passed on, we continue to survive online. Planning your digital death is more than just a Black Mirror-esque fantasy – it is a current, existing issue. With 10,000 Facebook users dying every day, it is estimated that dead Facebook users could outnumber the living by 2069.
Planning your digital death is still relatively new, and possibilities are still being explored. Esther Earl, a sixteen-year-old girl battling thyroid cancer, shocked her loved ones when she tweeted six months after her death. The tweet read, “It’s currently Friday, January 14 of the year 2010. Just wanted to say: I seriously hope that I’m alive when this posts.” While scheduling posts and updates is a cool way to live on (and freak out your friends), planning your digital legacy is usually much less glamourous. Some key tasks include compiling a list of your digital assets, specifying how you want your social media accounts to be handled, and telling a few trusted people where to find your passwords.
Most social media platforms allow for your account to be deactivated by a loved one after presenting a death certificate. This is essential, because there’s nothing worse than waking up to a reminder to wish your dead aunt Kathy a Happy Birthday. Facebook also has the feature to memorialize a user, freezing their account and protecting the user’s legacy. However, no amount of death certificates can give you access to a deceased person’s account. In 2012, a fifteen-year-old girl was hit by a subway train in Berlin. Her family sued Facebook for access her account to see if the girl was being cyberbullied. Facebook refused access, citing privacy legislation. After 6 years of legal battles, the family was finally granted access, but most people wouldn’t be so lucky. Moral of the story: leave a list of your passwords behind so that your loved ones can save on legal fees, and buy you flowers instead.
Cleveland-based startup Vital Chain, is focusing on the creation of digital death certificates and birth records using the distributed ledger technology.
Blockchain offers a lot of potential to vital records. It’s immutability, traceability and its ability for data storage has endeared it to many industries. It is now seen as a technology to store all kinds of records which now includes death certificates? As it is, Medici Ventures, the wholly-owned blockchain accelerator of Overstock.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: OSTK) has entered an agreement with Vital Chain in return for a minority stake.
Why Digitise Birth/Death Certificates?
The first identity document an individual gets when they are born is a birth certificate and the last document they get after they die is a death certificate. These documents are essential to the identity of a man therefore, it’s trail must follow a trustless and auditable path. Although the US has made a move towards digitizing death certificates, the current process for creating an initial record of birth or death is inefficient and fragmented.
The government is the custodian of the identities of its citizens. While identity is important to the government. Ensuring that IDs in various agencies are properly validated, stored and issued without increasing opportunities for errors, fraud and security breach is of topmost importance. But by using the blockchain, governmental agencies can verify birth registration information using the current existing standards of live birth certification. This registration can be secured on the blockchain with the parent controlling the data until the child is of legal age. Access to the cryptographically stored information will be granted by holders consent.
The Vital Chain’s Vision for Identity Storage
To create an innovative solution to this fragmented process of registering a death, Vital Chain is using the blockchain. The solution utilizes blockchain technology as storage for innovative birth and death certificates thereby reducing the reliance on the paper and digital insurance of these vital records. Vital chain is teaming with Medici Ventures, who will acquire an equity stake in Vital Chain to undertake some product development work for the company. By integrating with various government agencies and health systems, Vital Chain will help to save time, increase efficiency, and reduce costs associated with the vital records ecosystem.
Medici Ventures, a wholly-owned blockchain accelerator of Overstock.com is focused on accelerating the adoption of blockchain technology and changing the world. They are already working with companies who are integrating blockchain technologies to industries such as governance, identity, supply chain, capital markets, governance, money and banking, and voting.
According to Jonathan Johnson, CEO of Overstock and president of Medici Ventures:
“Medici Ventures’ is committed to accelerating the adoption of blockchain technology, and Vital Chain is a meaningful addition to our identity pillar…”
Vital Chain is already making progress towards adoption with its partnership with the MetroHealth System. MetroHealth, a public health system and hospital group based in Cleveland, Ohio will work closely with Vital Chain to develop the product and spread its offer to hospitals across the country. On the other hand, Medici Ventures will acquire an equity stake in Vital Chain via product development work it will undertake for the company.
In the words of Shane Bigelow, the CEO of Vital Chain:
“Medici Ventures brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in helping companies like us to build meaningful technology in the identity realm. To have Medici, as the leader in the space, take an ownership stake in our company and involve us in their keiretsu is a great honour…”