I’m Paula Santolaya, reporting live from SANTOLIVE in my virtual reality. Have comments, opinions, or suggestions? Post them in the comments section or email me at email@example.com.
The ancient Egyptians mummified the pharaohs so that their soul recognized their body and continued their life in the Hereafter. In the 21st century, technology grants an immortal life after death, and people’s virtual souls continue to surf on the Internet forever, unless a person disconnects it.
Researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute estimates that in 50 years there will be more users dead than alive on Facebook. This means that about 4.9 billion “zombies” will circulate on the platform, the equivalent to three Chinas.
National legal systems protect the testamentary will of people beyond life. But the Internet has broken the legal framework of the analog society and the digital trail is a matter that worries legislators and turns many citizens upside down.
Another difficulty is the fact that each social media has its own mortuary regulations. On Facebook, the account holder can decide if he or she wants the account to be kept as a memorial page or delete it. These accounts are managed by a trusted contact, previously registered and authorized by the deceased. When a user dies, Twitter requests an authorized person to submit the death certificate and other documents by email to verify that the user is no longer alive. As for Instagram, the rules are similar to those of its owner Facebook. The user will be able to establish whether keep the account as a memory or delete it after death. The request to cancel the account must be applied by a family member or a legal representative. Snapchat offers one option, to delete the account, although it also allows the user to designate a person to continue accessing. To request the deactivation of a Google account, it is required a death certificate and an email, with a header and content, from the Google address you want to delete. In the case of YouTube, since all accounts are associated with Google, it responds to the same policies.
But the real problem is that our digital legacy is still controlled by the companies that use users data. Once the person passes away, the contract extincts so companies can freely use the personal information for commercial purposes.
That’s why it is necessary that countries fill this legal gap and prevent our virtual lifes from ending up in the digital cemetery.
Meanwhile, the best option is to contact a notary to write our digital will and designate the right person to avoid mummifying our virtual souls.