In a lifetime we accumulate many assets movable (gold, cash, vehicles, etc) and immovable (house, land, etc). When our beloved passes away unexpectedly there are laws that govern it through various approaches and services. They are will-papers, power of attorney, joint custody, nominees, and many.
As per this article, assets can be in 3 categories:
- Personal Assets: your property, antiques, art, boats, coins, electronics, musical instruments, jewelry, precious metals, tapestries, vehicles, wine, and chattels in your house (e.g. furniture, curtains, gadgets, kitchen appliances)
- Investments: pensions, shares, bonds, trusts, cash, gold, and other real estates such as second homes
- Digital Assets: include your music, films, box sets, e-books, photos, cryptocurrencies, reward cards, vouchers, and business IP
In the last few decades, we have started accumulating another asset i.e. data: social media profiles, sim number, email ids, hobby pages, blog pages, online businesses, etc.
Law across various countries are categorizing the digital assets:
- Personal assets (email accounts, texts, social media profiles)
- Financial assets (online bank accounts, PayPal, cryptocurrency)
- Business (EBay, Spotify, customer orders)
- Intellectual property rights (domain names, images, and writing files on your computer)
- Loyalty program benefits
- Sports gambling accounts
- Online gaming accounts
When people die unexpectedly, their data floats on the internet world. This data is vulnerable and targeted. With so many unexpected deaths happening due to COVID, my memories went back 10years to explore this topic.
This article explores:
1. My journey of a loss and how I managed the data
2. How User Experience has influenced this data
3. What are the recent patterns/conversations?
My journey of a loss and how I handled the data in 2011
When my spouse passed away, apart from movable and immovable assets, he owned:
- A sim card which he used for 10 years: I started using his sim card so I do not lose valuable phone calls, messages, or any communication which was halfway. That number was associated with his voice and memories of the conversations with his friends until it changed later.
- Mobile phone: I retrieved his Gmail account from it. Many valuable conversations were retrieved. I requested the deletion of his account later.
- FB Profile memorialized but Linkedin and Twitter offered to delete which I didn’t accept so they continue.
- Company email: The company gave me all personal data from his email id and I was not sure what to do with it. I scanned all emails of 10years and made sure, I did not miss any details. That data lies in a hard disk, packed up in his memory boxes.
- Yahoo account: I could not get the ownership of this and I tried hard
- His published poems with vendor website: They do not exist anymore, I have the screenshots though, but that website deleted his page.
- Domain names: He had few domain names, a common business to own and sell back then. I retrieved it from the companies and after a year did not renew it.
- GitHub account: I did not look much into that
For a nerdy guy like him, this list is still less, some were not even traceable. It is painful and they say survivors are the sufferers. There are many other data that floats in the internet world even after 10years, memories shared by friends, photos, blogs, mentions, etc. Accumulation of so many memories is painful when you visit them, it is hard to move on and the inability to create new moments with new people. It is like imprinting life on a platform unknown that doesn’t belong to dependants.
How UX has influenced this data?
I read one LinkedIn post of a dear connection where he grieved the loss of his friend and Linkedin’s inability to handle deceased profiles. In my case, I let it go and decided not to delete my husband’s profile but there are many stories floating on the internet. Today after 10 years in 2021, when I looked into policies how big social media giants have implemented, it has changed. Here are few examples of Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Linkedin. Every company has its own policies.