Monday , June 27 2022

Digital Death or Virtual Eternity: What Happens With Our Data After Death? (by Mor Ndiaye Mbaye)


The rapid development of information and communication technologies, marked by the emergence of relatively high-priced, relatively inexpensive, high-availability broadband and penetrating penetration networks for digital use in our daily lives . Confidentiality of data from the start of the global network has quickly pushed the way for full openness, thus devoting the principle of "Open Access", which underlies the democratization of access and content that the current world of the network is experiencing.

The explosion of the Internet and social networks in just a few years has seen profound changes in Internet users' habits, attitudes and attitudes. Very confidential in childhood, the Web has become a tool used daily by all, corporations, individuals, governments and even bandits! It is the receptacle of transposing what is happening in people's lives.

Now we are talking about web 3.0 or the web semantics defined by Tim Bernerslee as "a network of data that can be directly and indirectly processed by machines to help users create new knowledge": important data. He dedicates the junction between the physical universe and the digital universe to lead to an Internet of Things or the Internet of Things where they, beyond the mines of the information they store, are able to learn and enrich the information stocks. For example, a connected refrigerator may know that he or she is missing certain foods and, with the permission of the owner, accesses a commercial site, buys, orders, pays and organizes the receipt of the goods.

The consequence is that the user is left with the whole life on the web, his or her personal identification data or personal data that relate to any data related to him and to identify intrinsically, but especially all kinds of information related to his person; biography, interests, habits of consumption, his frequencies, his hobbies, his friends, his productions and his intellectual works, in short, his entire life.

This wealth of information about each user is broadcast, so to speak, in the cloud that is today the Internet, stored in data centers, but which can easily be reconstituted, if necessary, for commercial, legal, military, police.

What happens to this information after death?

From this interrogation was born the notion of "digital death" that has a legal dimension, but also a society. Today deaths continue to exist numerically in social networks; facebook, twitter, instagram, email and other accounts remain open and remind people of the birthday of the deceased and invite them to wish them a happy birthday. Professional networks like Linkedin, Viadéo do the same, asking them to congratulate them for their professional birthday; some configured email servers may even send automated messages (such as automatic receipt confirmation or temporary absence reporting); advertisers are even sending advertisements, etc. We are talking about digital immortality or virtual eternity of the individual.

Digital heritage

It adds that all the information described above and many others give the user a very often commercially available digital heritage of choice. It should be noted that the economic model of seemingly free platforms (Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) is essentially the sale of these data to advertisers, insurers, bankers and others. This digital inheritance of the user consists of all its existing documents in the original digital format or from a digitization process (text, audio, motion, video, database, software, patent, etc.) stored in network and have some commercial or emotional value.

Only at the current state of the legislation in force, the opening of these accounts, that they are courier or a social network on the Internet give its author exclusive personal rights. It is its right to respect for its private life and, therefore, to the protection of its personal data. Because these data are strictly natural and exclusively personal, family members or friends can not access this document without their permission.

The right to digital dying

In France, Law no. 2016-1321 of 7 October 2016 "for a Digital Republic" proposed by Digital Secretary of State Axelle Lemaire provides a framework for "Digital Death", stating: "Anyone can define guidelines on keeping, deleting and communicating data with personal after his death. " This law, although offering the possibility to designate a reliable digital third party certified by the National Commission for Information and Liberties (CNIL), leaves, according to some analysts, "an ambivalence between the attraction of the right of inheritance and the personalistic preservation of the rights granted to the person on the collected data ".

Obviously, there is a legal void that can not fill the general terms of use of the sites and other confidentiality commitments proposed to create accounts. If one, in the case of death declared properly, closes the accounts and deletes the data? Transfer the potential heirs who do not have the same vision of their use? Is there no risk of confidentiality in the case of disclosure contrary to the wishes of the deceased?

What solutions should be considered?

Some approaches used by web giants.

The web giants each have a different approach to post-mortem management of their deceased clients' data after providing incontrovertible material evidence about the death of the people concerned and the elements that can justify their relationship.

twitter : proposes a form to allow relatives to request the death of the deceased. This completed form must be sent to its San Francisco office.

Facebook : advocates a "memorial" status for deceased users. The profile is still active and can only be accessed by Facebook friends because most features are rendered inaccessible.

Google : recommends an inactive account manager device. The principle is that a "inactive account manager" is user-defined and will manage all data related to their Google account and all related services (YouTube, Gmail, Google Drive, Google+, etc.) once the account is no longer active depending on the predefined parameters. There are two solutions: either we request the account to be closed after his or her death, or we require the transmission of all personal data to one or more previously designated relatives.

Of course, there is a general data protection rule in Europe that allows anyone to enjoy the right of access, the right to forget, the right to withdraw, and the right to data portability. This law only applies to companies that manage data personalities of European citizens.

As we can see the security of post-mortem transmission of our digital data to posteriori heirs or relatives, or our "pure and simple funeral digital" as a second opposite opposite to managing our digital data after our physical death. One as the other option leads us to the need to systematically establish wills for which management is not inevitable. As Sylvain Aubert Edeneo says: "The digital identification solution can not be found in the digital world because of the significant hacking risks faced by various websites and identity theft. It is the notary to be approached," he insists.

Mor Ndiaye Mbaye

General Manager FDSUT / ARTP


[email protected]

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