Website that helps you plan for death finds success with millennials

Website that helps you plan for death finds success with millennials

Website that helps you plan for death finds success with millennials

Click here to view original web page at Website that helps you plan for death finds success with millennials

Liz Eddy has lost track of how many times she’s told the story that led her to co-found Lantern, a website that helps people tackle the complex logistics of losing someone they love and also plan for their own deaths.

That story starts with a phone call on a Saturday morning from a nursing home with news that Eddy’s grandmother had died. Two police officers and a nurse greeted Eddy in the room where her grandmother’s body lay.

“They looked at me and said, ‘What do you want to do?'” recalls Eddy, who was 27 at the time. “I had no idea what to turn to … and really was just thrown into a rapid Google search where I typed in what do you do when someone dies?”

“I was just thrown into a rapid Google search where I typed in what do you do when someone dies?”

Eddy, who lost her father as a child, anticipated this moment. Her grandmother, who was frail, had done some pre-planning. She’d written a will, completed an advanced directive for her medical care, and told Eddy where she kept important paperwork and belongings.

But Eddy quickly learned that there’d been oversights, including how she might close certain accounts, stop auto-refill prescriptions, and find online passwords. Eddy figured she’d rely on a comprehensive online resource that could walk her through what to do but found none. Instead, she embarked on a “scavenger hunt of websites” for answers.

“I fully expected to find something like Lantern,” she says.

In the midst of coping with her grief and trying to settle her grandmother’s affairs, Eddy walked in the door of her best friend Alyssa Ruderman’s home, and said, “We’ve got to do something about death.”

The pair launched Lantern last fall with $890,000 in pre-seed funding. The website offers free checklists for users who need to plan a funeral, help dealing with logistics that follow a funeral, or assistance sorting out their last wishes in advance of their own death. The site has thousands of users, and to Eddy’s surprise, 40 percent of them are 35 and younger.

WATCH: How to plan for your digital death — Clarification Please

Volume 90%

Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard Shortcuts

Play/PauseSPACE

Increase Volume↑

Decrease Volume↓

Seek Forward→

Seek Backward←

Captions On/Offc

Fullscreen/Exit Fullscreenf

Mute/Unmutem

Seek %0-9

Copied

<iframe src=”https://mashable.com/videos/blueprint:xgldO2xMn7/embed/?player=offsite” width=’640′ height=’360′ />

Copied

00:00

00:00

00:00

More Videos

Meet the four-legged bat boy of this minor league team – Mashable Originals

The new Razr has a horrifying creak

Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S20 lineup

3D printing prosthetics inside the world’s largest Syrian refugee camp is helping kids with disabilities

Hackers are using AI & facial recognition on Tinder — Mashable Originals

Here’s how ‘The Circle’ winner Joey Sasso met Lady Gaga and Adele

Close

Lantern’s appeal to millennials speaks to a number of trends. They may help older parents plan for what happens when they die and then decide to make similar arrangements for themselves. Accustomed to having everything in their lives optimized or organized by a digital tool, the 35-and-under crowd may view online end-of-life planning as a helpful service like any other they use.

In general, talking about dying seems less taboo to many millennials. They encounter the “positive death” movement online, which aims to make conversations about death normal and routine. But millennials also live in a world that seems beset by crisis, whether that’s mass shootings, climate change, or coronavirus. Contemplating what the end looks like is part of being alive.

Anita Hannig, an associate professor of anthropology at Brandeis University who studies death and dying, says people — not just millennials — increasingly want to express their unique selves in death as in life.

The challenge is getting people comfortable enough to consider what that looks like. Eddy and Ruderman have designed Lantern to sound like a compassionate friend who knowingly takes your hand. The site isn’t morbid but instead offers practical information about the choices we can make before we die, like hiring a death doula and how to write a will. Users can compare different burial options, learn how to select life insurance, and explore how they want to be remembered online.

“A lot of people still think that if you’re talking about death too much, there’s an eerie way you’re bringing it about,” Hannig says. “In some ways, having a website like this [is] making death so much more manageable so that you can focus on the actual process of death and dying when it happens.”

Viana McFarland, a 25-year-old New Yorker, discovered Lantern after an employer-sponsored financial planning workshop prompted her to think about what might happen to her belongings and modest savings after she died. After searching Reddit and Google for resources, she found Lantern.

“There were small things I didn’t think about,” McFarland says.

That included the specifics of her burial. McFarland learned that she could let her body decompose in a “mushroom suit,” which hastens the breakdown of a corpse using mushroom spores and other microorganisms. She explored how to donate organs and leave money to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. Most of all, McFarland wanted to spare her loved ones stress, confusion, and conflict. The time she spent on Lantern felt useful and productive.

“I guess younger people, with more resources at our hands, might become informed sooner or in a different way than our parents and grandparents were,” says McFarland.

More than three dozen articles on Lantern offer advice and insight on common questions. Its checklist offers a step-by-step guide to managing your last wishes. Tasks include making a funeral financial plan, safely storing financial information so it can be accessed by a loved one, and writing a last will and testament.

Website that helps you plan for death finds success with millennials

Lantern is also sentimental. The checklist prompts users to reflect on their legacy, asking about the three best decisions they ever made, what advice they’d give to their younger selves, and what they’d want their grandchildren to know about them.

“These questions were really developed because we started to realize that people don’t ask these questions of their loved ones, and it’s often the thing you think about when they’re gone,” says Eddy, who personally longs to know stories from her father’s life.

While it’s crucial to record the practical and sentimental information, Lantern must also deliver on keeping it secure. The site uses encryption and currently doesn’t collect information it doesn’t feel equipped to protect, such as passwords, wills, and Social Security numbers.

Instead, its business model is based on referring users to services that specialize in certain products, and which Eddy and Ruderman have personally vetted. For estate planning, Lantern recommends Legal Zoom. To help loved ones close online accounts, it suggests the password manager 1Password. Lantern can receive a referral fee when its customers sign up for such services. Eddy and Ruderman are also exploring pitching Lantern to organizations, like life insurance companies and hospitals, whose clients need the information the site has to offer. They’re making the same case to human resources departments who could use Lantern as a benefit for employees who, like McFarland, don’t know how to start end-of-life planning.

Though Lantern will probably offer a premium subscription to users in the future, Eddy and Ruderman are adamant that its basic how-to content and checklists will never be paywalled.

“We don’t think people should not have access to this information because they do not have means,” says Eddy.

The company can take that stand because it’s a public benefit corporation, which means it plans to pursue a mission-driven approach while also seeking a return for investors.

“Our vision is to be the central resource that any one person uses to navigate their life before and after a death.”

Nancy Lublin, an entrepreneur who is the founder and CEO of Crisis Text Line and the former CEO of DoSomething.org, made an angel investment in Lantern. Lublin knows Eddy and Ruderman from their previous roles at Crisis Text Line and DoSomething.org, respectively.

She said in an email that Lantern is poised to serve a “huge untapped market. Millennials, in particular, are bound to find Lantern appealing.

“How the heck are people going to deal when their parents and grandparents (fyi: enormous boomer generations) pass away?” wrote Lublin, noting that millennials use digital tools to find everything from roommates to lovers to marijuana. Of course they’d want something similar to help them manage death.

Eddy and Ruderman are aiming to become the first thing anyone turns to when it’s time to grieve a loved one or plan for the end of their own life.

“Our vision is — and always will be — to be the central resource that any one person uses to navigate their life before and after a death,” says Ruderman. “That is our North Star.”

Eddy is buoyed by the possibility that she’s helping others avoid what she experienced following her grandmother’s death: “You don’t have to be forced to pick the first thing you see on Google,” she says.

Images

Ultimate Guide to Digital Death (and how to handle it)

Ultimate Guide to Digital Death (and how to handle it)

Click here to view original web page at Ultimate Guide to Digital Death (and how to handle it)

Certain ideas take time to come of age.

Do you know that it took years to accept using an umbrella made perfect sense? Yes, even in Britain! You’d think we’d embrace the innovation, our love of all things about the weather – not so. It took 50 years to catch on!

So it’s no surprise that the ideas, problems, opportunities and concerns surrounding our digital presence after we die, are taking a while to root and flourish.

But perhaps that coming of age is starting?

I’ve not written anything about the subject for a couple of years since I published the book Death Goes Digital on Amazon. Why? Honestly, while there are pockets of interest and awareness, they are about as deep as mine when it comes to sharing my Maltesers Chocolates. (Let me tell you, that’s not very deep!) So I stopped writing. I am hoping that I will be around to see culture catch up. Maybe I will.

Setting up Google Alerts for many of the keywords around the subject, it’s easy for me to see the growing conversation online. Over the last six months, it’s been increasing at a steady rate. Though not a fast-flowing stream of articles, there is, without a doubt, a more significant drip of dialogue around the issues of digital legacy.

Is it now becoming an idea of our time?

Is this a subject that is new to you? Is this something you’ve read a little on before, but never got to grips with? Well, I’ve come across what could be the .

I can’t claim any credit or responsibility for any of the content – it was written by Ariel Hochstadt and posted on the blog at https://www.vpnmentor.com/ It undoubtedly is worth a read. It covers the issues, potential problems and provides excellent suggestions on what steps you should take to guard your own digital presence after your death.

To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.

— J.K. Rowling

While no one likes to consider their mortality, it is a fact we can’t deny.

J.K. Rowling is correct – what adventures do await us? But perhaps for the well-organised mind, it’s worth considering a few steps you need to take before you go and this guide may be just the one you need to read.

Is that coming of age about to start? Who can say? I, for one, will keep an eye the flow of content online and add more guest posts and information on the subject to the blog.

Who knows it may not take 50 years, and I may see it happen.

Ultimate Guide on Digital Death

Ultimate Guide on Digital Death

Ultimate Guide on Digital Death

Click here to view original web page at Ultimate Guide on Digital Death

This week I received this important link from one of my website blog readers, namely Dakota Thyer. This link provides more in-depth details than what I mentioned in my blog regarding “Digital Assets” on August 24, 2018.

Splendid additional resource! Below is the link.

In summary:

1. Deal with your digital legacy now, so it is easier later.

2. Take control of what happens to your digital possessions after death.

3. Help your family.

4. Help your business partners.

These four action items above are critical to preparing for your digital afterlife. Please – please – please click on the link and read the entire article in vpnmentor ‘s “blog” page. Thank you so much, Dakota.

Millennials, It is Time to Educate and Protect Your Digital Relatives

Millennials, It is Time to Educate and Protect Your Digital Relatives

Millennials, It is Time to Educate and Protect Your Digital Relatives

Click here to view original web page at Millennials, It is Time to Educate and Protect Your Digital Relatives

Digital Parents, Digital Grandparents, Digital Death, Digital Estate Planning, Identity Theft, End-of-Life Services
Digital Parents, Digital Grandparents, Digital Death, Digital Estate Planning, Identity Theft, End-of-Life Services

Technology for all

“How do I send a Facebook message?”

“Can you help me with the computer?”

“I can’t get into my phone!”

Sound familiar? For many millennials, older relatives have spent a large percentage of their lives helping, teaching and supporting you. Now it’s time for millennials to teach and support your now digital relatives.

How many of your parents, grandparents and other relatives are now online and using technology? According to Pew Research Center, 73% of American adults ages 65 or older are internet users. That is up 14% from the year 2000, just a decade ago. To younger generations, the value of technology and the internet made them early adopters to integrating various technologies into their daily lives; it is clear that older Americans are now on board as well.

Millennials must help your older relatives understand the dark side of technology

With all things in life, there are pros and cons. Technology is no different. Growing up with technology, Millennials have an easier time understanding the negative sides. Identity theft, fraud and stolen financial information are just some examples of what can easily happen if the proper steps and precautions are not taken. Older generations need help understanding how they can easily fall victim to cyber crime, even after death. Have you ever found yourself saying one of the following to an older relative?

  • Do not click links in emails from people you do not know
  • Even more confusing, do not click links in emails from familiar sources that seem “off”; go to the websites directly
  • You must use a passcode for your phone
  • Do not use the same password for all your online accounts

What is the value of your digital information, assets and footprint?

In a survey conducted by McAfee, they found that 88% of consumers own multiple digital devices, with 62% owning three or more and 20% owning five or more.

More than half of consumers surveyed (51%) spend 15 hours or more on their digital devices. The study concluded that the global average worth of assets stored on our devices is over $35,000. The study was further expanded by Andrew Hill Investment Advisors, who state for Americans, the average financial worth of digital assets is over $55,000 per person.

These studies are interesting and encourage you to value your digital assets along with your physical property. While it is easy to define the value of your laptop, phone and other devices, the harder piece of this equation is how do you place a value on your irreplaceable items (such as photos or documents), or financial information that could be stolen?

Help your relatives protect and plan for their digital estate

Take a moment and think about all the financial, personal, sensitive or private information that your relatives may have on their devices:

  • Credit cards
  • Tax documents
  • Social Security numbers (for all family members, likely including yours)
  • Medical records (for all family members, likely including yours)
  • Banking information
  • Retirement information
  • Investment information
  • Private conversations
  • Private and personal data
  • Private location data

According to AARP, it can take six months for financial institutions, credit-reporting bureaus and the Social Security Administration to receive, share or register death records. Widely available funeral announcements create the perfect scenario for criminals to strike, and it makes grieving loved ones a prime target for identity theft and other types of financial and digital theft. It has become imperative that your older relatives start to plan properly for their digital death.

Did you know that according to AARP, close to 800,000 deceased individuals are targeted for identity theft annually? That’s almost 2,200 a day. With a name, address and birth date, criminals can purchase a Social Security number for as little as $10. Stealing the identity of the deceased is called ghosting, and you can learn more about it here.

Digital estate planning is about you, too

Digital estate planning is more than just protection from criminals targeting your deceased loved ones; it is also about organization. When a loved one passes, it is a difficult and emotional time for family members. The last thing you want to worry about is where to find important information such as a will, or safeguard family memories such as photos. When you take time to plan in advance using a central storage location such as an Info Vault, your relatives will enjoy peace of mind knowing that all their important information, documents, passwords, photos and other digital items are safe.

You will also benefit from your relatives planning for their digital estate. While grieving and dealing with their post-life matters, you will not have to scramble around looking for their password and other important information, during what is one of life’s most emotional and stressful times.

Talk to your relatives

The time is now to talk to your parents and other relatives about planning and protecting their digital lives. You never know when your time will be up, so take action today. Talk to your relatives about how easy and wide-spread end-of-life related crimes can be. In the same conversation, explain how they can organize both their traditional and digital estates at the same time using digital estate planning services. Taking proactive measures now will provide both you and your relatives with the peace-of-mind knowing that their important items will be safely transferred in an organized manner, making one the hardest times in life a little easier.

How Final Security can help

Final Security can help protect your relatives by providing them with the tools they need to properly plan their estate and control their digital information and assets upon death.

Info Vault

Final Security’s Info Vault is a place where loved ones can store their digital information:

  • Store usernames and passwords to any service (files and notes can be saved with each entry).
  • Store their photos: save a single, memorable photo or a collection to pass on.
  • Store your documents, such as a will, or a collection of information their beneficiaries will need.
  • Create an efficient, organized and central place for their beneficiary to find all their important information after their passing.

Device Cleaning

With Final Security’s Device Cleaning service, they can have that peace of mind that their registered devices will be remotely wiped upon the confirmation of their passing. Our service will ensure that their sensitive and private information will not be seen by anyone but their designated beneficiary. We will protect not only their legacy but provide protection to their family and friends by making sure their private information does not get into the wrong hands.

Social Media Cleaning

Social Clean is Final Security’s service that allows you to know that your online accounts do not live on the web forever. Not only does this service protect their legacy and information, it also protects family and friends. Bad actors are looking to capitalize on the window of time where your death may not be publicly known or officially recognized. In this window of time, your family and friends could fall victim to a scam that looks like it is coming from your account.

Americans 60 and older are spending more time in front of their screens than a decade ago. (2019). Pew Research Center. From: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/06/18/americans-60-and-older-are-spending-more-time-in-front-of-their-screens-than-a-decade-ago

Are Your Digital Assets Protected? -. (2019). Responsibleadvisors.com. From: https://responsibleadvisors.com/are-your-digital-assets-protected/

How Do Your Digital Assets Compare? | McAfee Blogs. (2013). McAfee Blogs. From: https://www.mcafee.com/blogs/consumer/family-safety/digital-assets/

What happens to our online identities when we die?

What happens to our online identities when we die?

What happens to our online identities when we die?

Click here to view original web page at What happens to our online identities when we die?

Hayley Atwell in the Black Mirror episode Be Right Back.

Esther Earl never meant to tweet after she died. On 25 August 2010, the 16-year-old internet vlogger died after a four-year battle with thyroid cancer. In her early teens, Esther had gained a loyal following online, where she posted about her love of Harry Potter, and her illness. Then, on 18 February 2011 – six months after her death – Esther posted a message on her Twitter account, @crazycrayon.

“It’s currently Friday, January 14 of the year 2010. just wanted to say: I seriously hope that I’m alive when this posts,” she wrote, adding an emoji of a smiling face in sunglasses. Her mother, Lori Earl from Massachusetts, tells me Esther’s online friends were “freaked out” by the tweet.

“I’d say they found her tweet jarring because it was unexpected,” she says. Earl doesn’t know which service her daughter used to schedule the tweet a year in advance, but believes it was intended for herself, not for loved ones after her death. “She hoped she would receive her own messages … [it showed] her hopes and longings to still be living, to hold on to life.”

Although Esther did not intend her tweet to be a posthumous message for her family, a host of services now encourage people to plan their online afterlives. Want to post on social media and communicate with your friends after death? There are lots of apps for that! Replika and Eternime are artificially intelligent chatbots that can imitate your speech for loved ones after you die; GoneNotGone enables you to send emails from the grave; and DeadSocial’s “goodbye tool” allows you to “tell your friends and family that you have died”. In season two, episode one of Black Mirror, a young woman recreates her dead boyfriend as an artificial intelligence – what was once the subject of a dystopian 44-minute fantasy is nearing reality.

Esther Earl at home in 2010 … before she died, she arranged for emails to be sent to her imagined future self.
Esther Earl at home in 2010 … before she died, she arranged for emails to be sent to her imagined future self. Photograph: Boston Globe via Getty Images

But although Charlie Brooker portrayed the digital afterlife as something twisted, in reality online legacies can be comforting for the bereaved. Esther Earl used a service called FutureMe to send emails to herself, stating that her parents should read them if she died. Three months after Esther’s death, her mother received one of these emails. “They were seismically powerful,” she says. “That letter made us weep, but also brought us great comfort – I think because of its intentionality, the fact that she was thinking about her future, the clarity with which she accepted who she was and who she hoped to become.”

Because of the power of Esther’s messages, Earl knows that if she were dying, she would also schedule emails for her husband and children. “I think I would be very clear about how many messages I had written and when to expect them,” she adds, noting they could cause anxiety for relatives and friends otherwise.

Yet while the terminally ill ponder their digital legacies, the majority of us do not. In November 2018, a YouGov survey found that only 7% of people want their social media accounts to remain online after they die, yet it is estimated that by 2100, there could be 4.9bn dead users on Facebook alone. Planning your digital death is not really about scheduling status updates for loved ones or building an AI avatar. In practice, it is a series of unglamorous decisions about deleting your Facebook, Twitter and Netflix accounts; protecting your email against hackers; bestowing your music library to your friends; allowing your family to download photos from your cloud; and ensuring that your online secrets remain hidden in their digital alcoves.

In Be Right Back, a young woman recreates her dead boyfriend as an artificial intelligence.
In Be Right Back, a young woman recreates her dead boyfriend as an artificial intelligence. Photograph: Channel 4

“We should think really carefully about anything we’re entrusting or storing on any digital platform,” says Dr Elaine Kasket, a psychologist and author of All the Ghosts in the Machine: Illusions of Immortality in the Digital Age. “If our digital stuff were like our material stuff, we would all look like extreme hoarders.” Kasket says it is naive to assume that our online lives die with us. In practice, your hoard of digital data can cause endless complications for loved ones, particularly when they don’t have access to your passwords.

“I cursed my father every step of the way,” says Richard, a 34-year-old engineer from Ontario who was made executor of his father’s estate four years ago. Although Richard’s father left him a list of passwords, not one remained valid by the time of his death. Richard couldn’t access his father’s online government accounts, his email (to inform his contacts about the funeral), or even log on to his computer. For privacy reasons, Microsoft refused to help Richard access his father’s computer. “Because of that experience I will never call Microsoft again,” he says.

Our devices capture so much stuff, we don’t think about the consequences for when we’re not here

Compare this with the experience of Jan-Ole Lincke, a 24-year-old pharmaceutical worker from Hamburg whose father left up-to-date passwords behind on a sheet of paper when he died two years ago. “Getting access was thankfully very easy,” says Lincke, who was able to download pictures from his father’s Google profile, shut down his email to prevent hacking, and delete credit card details from his Amazon account. “It definitely made me think about my own [digital legacy],” says Lincke, who has now written his passwords down.

Yet despite growing awareness about the data we leave behind, very few of us are doing anything about it. In 2013, a Brighton-based company called Cirrus Legacy made headlines after it began allowing people to securely leave behind passwords for a nominated loved one. Yet the Cirrus website is now defunct, and the Guardian was unable to reach its founder for comment. Clarkson Wright & Jakes Solicitors, a Kent-based law firm that offered the Cirrus service to its clients, says the option was never popular.

“We’ve been aware for quite a period now that the big issue for the next generation is digital footprints,” says Jeremy Wilson, head of the wills and estates team at CWJ. “Cirrus made sense and ticked a lot of boxes but, to be honest, not one client has taken us up on it.”

Wilson also notes that people don’t know about the laws surrounding digital assets such as the music, movies and games they have downloaded. While many of us assume we own our iTunes library or collection of PlayStation games, in fact, most digital downloads are only licensed to us, and this licence ends when we die.

What we want to do and what the law allows us to do with our digital legacy can therefore be very different things. Yet at present it is not the law that dominates our decisions about digital death. “Regulation is always really slow to keep up with technology,” says Kasket. “That means that platforms and corporations like Facebook end up writing the rules.”

Andrew Scott stars in the new Black Mirror episode Smithereens, which explores our digital dependency.
Andrew Scott stars in the new Black Mirror episode Smithereens, which explores our digital dependency. Photograph: Netflix / Black Mirror

In 2012, a 15-year-old German girl died after being hit by a subway train in Berlin. Although the girl had given her parents her online passwords, they were unable to access her Facebook account because it had been “memorialised” by the social network. Since October 2009, Facebook has allowed profiles to be transformed into “memorial pages” that exist in perpetuity. No one can then log into the account or update it, and it remains frozen as a place for loved ones to share their grief.

The girl’s parents sued Facebook for access to her account – they hoped to use it to determine whether her death was suicide. They originally lost the case, although a German court later granted the parents permission to get into her account, six years after her death.

“I find it concerning that any big tech company that hasn’t really shown itself to be the most honest, transparent or ethical organisation is writing the rulebook for how we should grieve, and making moral judgments about who should or shouldn’t have access to sensitive personal data,” says Kasket. The author is concerned with how Facebook uses the data of the dead for profit, arguing that living users keep their Facebook accounts because they don’t want to be “locked out of the cemetery” and lose access to relatives’ memorialised pages. As a psychologist, she is also concerned that Facebook is dictating our grief.

“Facebook created memorial profiles to prevent what they called ‘pain points’, like getting birthday reminders for a deceased person,” she says. “But one of the mothers I spoke to for my book was upset when her daughter’s profile was memorialised and she stopped getting these reminders. She was like, ‘This is my daughter, I gave birth to her, it’s still her birthday’.”

While Facebook users now have the option to appoint a “legacy contact” who can manage or delete their profile after death, Kasket is concerned that there are very few personalisation options when it comes to things like birthday reminders, or whether strangers can post on your wall. “The individuality and the idiosyncrasy of grief will flummox Facebook every time in its attempts to find a one-size-fits-all solution,” she says.

Pain points … should we allow loved ones to curate our legacy, or create ‘memorial pages’?
Pain points … should we allow loved ones to curate our legacy, or create ‘memorial pages’? Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

Matthew Helm, a 27-year-old technical analyst from Minnesota, says his mother’s Facebook profile compounded his grief after she died four years ago. “The first year was the most difficult,” says Helm, who felt some relatives posted about their grief on his mother’s wall in order to get attention. “In the beginning I definitely wished I could just wipe it all.” Helm hoped to delete the profile but was unable to access his mother’s account. He did not ask the tech giant to delete the profile because he didn’t want to give it his mother’s death certificate.

Conversely, Stephanie Nimmo, a 50-year-old writer from Wimbledon, embraced the chance to become her husband’s legacy contact after he died of bowel cancer in December 2015. “My husband and I shared a lot of information on Facebook. It almost became a bit of an online diary,” she says. “I didn’t want to lose that.” She is pleased people continue to post on her husband’s wall, and enjoys tagging him in posts about their children’s achievements. “I’m not being maudlin or creating a shrine, just acknowledging that their dad lived and he played a role in their lives,” she explains.

Nimmo is now passionate about encouraging people to plan their digital legacies. Her husband also left her passwords for his Reddit, Twitter, Google and online banking accounts. He also deleted Facebook messages he didn’t want his wife to see. “Even in a marriage there are certain things you wouldn’t want your other half to see because it’s private,” says Nimmo. “It worries me a little that if something happened to me, there are things I wouldn’t want my kids to see.”

When it comes to the choice between allowing relatives access to your accounts or letting a social media corporation use your data indefinitely after your death, privacy is a fundamental issue. Although the former makes us sweat, the latter is arguably more dystopian. Dr Edina Harbinja is a law lecturer at Aston University, who argues that we should all legally be entitled to postmortem privacy.

If we don’t start making decisions about our digital deaths, then someone else will be making them for us

“The deceased should have the right to control what happens to their personal data and online identities when they die,” she says, explaining that the Data Protection Act 2018 defines “personal data” as relating only to living people. Harbinja says this is problematic because rules such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation don’t apply to the dead, and because there are no provisions that allow us to pass on our online data in wills. “There can be many issues because we don’t know what would happen if someone is a legacy contact on Facebook, but the next of kin want access.” For example, if you decide you want your friend to delete your Facebook pictures after you die, your husband could legally challenge this. “There could be potential court cases.”

Kasket says people “don’t realise how much preparation they need to do in order to make plans that are actually able to be carried out”. It is clear that if we don’t start making decisions about our digital deaths, then someone else will be making them for us. “What one person craves is what another person is horrified about,” says Kasket.

How close are we to a Black Mirror-style digital afterlife?

Read more

Esther Earl continued to tweet for another year after her death. Automated posts from the music website Last.fm updated her followers about the music she enjoyed. There is no way to predict the problems we will leave online when we die; Lori Earl would never have thought of revoking Last.fm’s permissions to post on her daughter’s page before she died. “We would have turned off the posts if we had been able to,” she says.

Kasket says “the fundamental message” is to think about how much you store digitally. “Our devices, without us even having to try, capture so much stuff,” she says. “We don’t think about the consequences for when we’re not here any more.”

• Black Mirror season 5 launches on Netflix on 5 June.

Images