When will Digital Death go mainstream in Israel?

When will Digital Death go mainstream in Israel?

You may not relish thinking about you or your family suffering from injuries or illnesses in the future, yet you have an insurance covering these very options, right?

The possibility of your untimely death is not something you enjoy thinking about, yet you make a will just to be on the safe side, correct?

The probability of you or your loved ones dying is not something you like thinking about, yet you sit down with your spouse, children, siblings or parents, and discuss your digital legacy, assets and estate, just as a precaution, true?

Oh, you don’t?

Let me guess why: Because you haven’t thought about it yet.

That’s OK, I didn’t think about it either. Neither did my brother before he was killed when he was hit by a car on March 2, 2011.

The term “Digital Death” refers to the digital legacies, assets and estate the “modern deceased” leave behind, of both financial and sentimental value. It’s everything you have digitally created and stored: Offline in files, pictures and videos in your computer, tablet or smartphone, and online in emails, social networks, cloud storage services, online banking accounts, virtual shops and others.

While we may not be old or wealthy enough to accumulate many physical assets, we probably are internet savvy enough to accumulate digital assets (How many online accounts do you use? How many do the younger members of your family use?).

Dealing with physical assets of the deceased is something we already know how to do: We have legislation, legal precedence and social norms to guide us, as well as experience gathered over a long period of time. This is not the case with digital assets, however. There is no legal precedence in Israel (and only a few in the world), no local social norms and no Israeli legislation.

As this is a relatively recent phenomenon, there is very little personal experience as well – but that’s going to change, soon. The number of people dying with no one but the deceased knowing neither where he or she stored all this digital wealth nor their usernames and passwords, is growing exponentially.

In the United States, five states currently have Digital Death legislation, and 18 are in various stages of catching up. Each state is struggling to define its own solution, to various degrees of scope and success, as there is (as yet) no Digital Death Uniform State Laws or Federal Law.

In Israel? There is none.

International internet providers such as , , , , and LinkedIn clearly publish their policies regarding posthumous access online.

of the Israeli ISPs whose policies I have been checking on a regular basis since 2012 publish a policy regarding posthumous access to the accounts of their users: Netvision 013Bezeq International, , Internet RimonCafé TheMarker, and Israblog (which is now defunct – another form of digital death to all the content stored in it). Even the ISPs that actually have a clear posthumous policy and procedure, such as , don’t publish it online. I gathered their varying policies one by one (they are detailed in my blog, here: Technical Guide), as a service to the public. Some Israeli ISPs policies might surprise you with how easy – or how difficult – it will be to kin or heirs to gain access to accounts of deceased relatives or loved ones after their death.

As the awareness of the importance of Digital Death grows, people are encouraged to manage their digital assets ahead of time. Even the USA.gov blog posted about it.

In Israel? Using an online solution to manage your digital assets, as it is done outside the text of an official will, shall have no legal validity (according to Israeli Inheritance Law and Regulations, Chapter 1, clause 8a). Israel allows only one will and only in one format: Pen on paper (clause 18-20 in Chapter 3: Inheritance by Will, Article one).

Is the most unbearable scenario of all for you that in which people go through your private, personal stuff after your death? Even loved ones, or especially loved ones? That’s understandable, as we all cherish our privacy while we’re alive. Do we also cherish our privacy after our death? Some international ISPs – like – and some Israeli ISPs – walla!, Netvision or Bezeq International – will release the content of your email account to your kin or heirs.

So you should manage your digital assets regardless to what your wishes are: there are no right or wrong choices, only YOUR choices vs. choices made by outside factors, such as the changing policies of the various ISPs.

Do you remember that horrible moment when the technician lifted his or her gaze and sadly, not quite looking you in the eyes, told you your hard drive is lost beyond repair and with no hope of recovery? Remember that hollow feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realized your phone or tablet was stolen, with irreplaceable pictures and videos inside it? How about that time your house was broken into and your computer was stolen with invaluable data in it?

Now multiply those feelings with the pain of losing a loved one, and then multiply the data lost from that one occasion or one lost device with the loss of everything the recently deceased had stored digitally for the past who-knows-how-many-years, and you’ll get a glimpse of what families of the modern deceased are going through.

So, if you are using the Internet, manage your digital assets, legacy and estate, just like you would manage your insurance or will.

If you are a lawyer, advise your clients to manage their digital estate.

If you are an Israeli internet provider, have a clear posthumous policy and publish it online prominently.

If you are the Israel Defense Forces, add Digital Death data to the personal data you have soldiers fill in on their recruitment forms.

If you are an Israeli authority, put in place regulations for Israeli ISPs and adapt legislation to suit our age of technology.

Let’s not wait for the local version of sad stories such as Justin EllsworthBenjamin Stassen or to stir you into action. Let me be your wake up call.

Identity Theft Safeguard

Justin digital legacy

It is a proud moment for most parents when their son or daughter decides to join the marines and represent their country. This is no different for the family of Justin Ellsworth. Unfortunately the price of being a marine can be life threatening and in November 2004 Justin Ellsworth’s family got to experience a tragedy like no other when their son was reported dead. At the age of 20 their son Justin had been killed in a roadside blast while trying to assist local civilians.

As you could imagine this would be a huge loss for any family accompanied by much anguish. Regrettably the family of Justin Ellsworth would be haunted and reminded every day that their beloved family member was gone. This was mediated with the fact that Yahoo would not release Justin is emails to his family. To protect their users and themselves from being sued Yahoo has made it almost impossible for anyone outside of the account holder to gain access to an email address. So when Justin had passed away his family pleas to get to read his last words were in vain. Yahoo would not budge about their privacy policy.

The family of Justin knew that they had legal ground to collect their fallen family member is emails and decided to take their fights to the legal system. For the next two years the family of Justin and Yahoo battled on and off in court. During proceedings both sides holding on to their stance about what should happen to the emails of the deceased soldier with no settlements looming.

In April 2005, nearly two years after Justin had passed the judge had made a verdict. The judge had decided Yahoo had no legal grounds to hold Justin is emails from their family as they were the next in line to control it. Soon after the judge signed off on papers declaring Justin is email estate be signed off to his family immediately. This is something Yahoo did not try to appeal. Finally Justin is family had access to his emails but, not only did they have access, they had closure.

It just goes to show you that if you want your loved ones to gain access to your digital legacy then you must give them access before you die. Whether you leave your passwords in a will or you share it with someone close to you for safe keeping. Concluding remember, you are ultimately responsible for your digital legacy unless you want to let your family and loved ones fight for control!