”I have added you as my estate contact. After my death, you will have access to the data in my account. I have shared the access key with you and it is automatically stored in your ‘account’ settings. I If it is gone, you can use this key to access my Apple Cloud (iCloud) data.” This is Apple’s “Legacy Contacts” feature in the latest iOS 15.2 version launched in 2021, sent to “Legacy Contacts” text message content. However, this feature seems a bit late.
In January 2016, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported a story. Ms. Peggy, who lives in Victoria, Canada, encountered a very distressing problem. Peggy and her husband are very much in love, and they share many hobbies, including playing games on Apple’s iPad. But unfortunately, Peggy’s husband died suddenly, and there was no time to tell Peggy the iPad’s password. Later, after Peggy made an upgrade to the game, the system required you to enter an account and password here to access. There was nothing Peggy could do about it. Her daughter contacted Apple customer service to ask for a password, but was denied. Apple told Peggy that her only option was to create a new account and repurchase her favorite apps and games — an apparently ridiculous move. Although she provided Apple with the serial number of her Apple hardware, her husband’s will (which made it clear that all of the estate was left to Peggy), and a notarized death certificate, Apple refused her request and suggested Page applied to the court for permission to visit.
This news caused quite a stir in Canada, and for a time Apple became the target of thousands of people. This story is quite common in today’s digital age. In recent years, the leap-forward development of digitalization has made people more and more dependent on a lot of data information. As a result, many people have encountered problems like Peggy’s, and this problem is “digital heritage”. Indifference in the name of security and privacy often loses the warmth of humanity.
What is digital heritage?
Many countries and organizations have different definitions of digital heritage, but the definition in the “Charter for the Protection of Digital Heritage” promulgated by UNESCO in 2003 is relatively comprehensive and accurate: “Digital heritage is composed of unique resources of human knowledge and expressions. .It includes cultural, educational, scientific and administrative resources and information on technology, law, medicine and other fields that are digitally generated or converted from existing analog resources into digital form. Those ‘native digital’ resources , there is no other form but digital. Digital resources come in a variety and increasing number of forms, including text, databases, data at rest, and data in motion.”
Typically, we broadly categorize digital heritage into the following categories: First The category is virtual currency, including currency in some online games and social software, as well as cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin; game equipment purchased in online games also belongs to the category of virtual currency because it can be exchanged. The second category is account property, the most common being social software accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, “Instagram” and other software accounts. Game accounts also belong to account property. The third category of creations with intellectual property rights, such as short articles published on Twitter, novels created on the Internet, short videos published on Douyin, etc. The fourth category is various stored information on the information terminal, such as photos stored on the device terminal, life trivia recorded on the Facebook server, etc. The account password information on Ms. Peggy’s ipad belongs to this category.
Since it is an inheritance, it involves the issue of inheritance. Digital heritage has both traditional meanings, and has distinct technical characteristics and the brand of the times. According to the classification of digital heritage above, different types of digital heritage problems have formed different solutions in the process of network and technology development.
1. The inheritance of digital currency.
Digital currency, especially cryptocurrencies, is a high-profile issue in digital heritage. Inheritance of digital currency This involves not only legal issues, but also encryption technology. Industry experts say that of the 2.3 million to 3.7 million bitcoins lost around the world, a large part is because no one knows the keys of these bitcoins after the death of the bitcoin holder, so these virtual currencies can never be used. use. That figure is worth between $15 billion and $24 billion at current prices. Compared with the digital heritage of social media, although digital currency is virtual currency, it can achieve equivalent exchange and have independent payment functions, which makes the inheritance of digital currency, especially cryptocurrency, complicated and difficult to handle.
One of the more common solutions is to list the details of the bitcoins stored on the blockchain in a will. But this approach has a huge hidden danger – a will is not designed to keep private information, it is strictly a public document. While a will does not immediately enter the public record, it would be unwise to risk revealing crypto wallet keys in a will. As the world’s largest bitcoin trading company, the American bitcoin trading company “Coinbase” has begun to improve its services related to inheritance in recent years, allowing customers to designate beneficiaries to access encrypted wallets after their death. Of course, the premise is that the heir presents the client’s death certificate and other information, and the relevant details have been listed in the client’s will.
Second, the inheritance of social media digital heritage.
Although the digital legacy people leave on social media is virtual in nature, it is the most memorable part of a person’s life. Many people use social media as a diary to record important moments of work and daily life. It is said that digital heritage is a valuable asset. Precisely because digital heritage is largely an individual’s life, there is no escape from privacy concerns. Westerners who pay attention to personal privacy, many of them hope that after passing away, the digital heritage will also be cleared, rather than let their privacy continue to exist on the Internet like a ghost in this world; there are also many people who hope that these moments can be Always leave it to future generations and the world.
In response to this issue, the Digital Heritage Association conducted a social survey. The Digital Heritage Association is a professional organization engaged in the research of digital assets and digital heritage. It was founded by the British Hospice Association in 2015. Its mission is to help the dying people realize their aspirations in the digital field. The association’s survey obtained such a set of data: people who are familiar with the concept of digital heritage accounted for 12% of the survey group, while those who knew nothing about it accounted for 22.32%; people who were willing to tell their account passwords to people other than themselves accounted for 12% of the survey group. 51.91% and 46.04% of the people are unwilling to disclose their account passwords to anyone, even their closest friends or relatives; 92.88% of them have never stated in writing what to do with these digital accounts after their death.
It can be seen that the vast majority of users have no awareness of “making a will” for digital heritage. In the past, many people would make a will to notarize the inheritance and disposal of physical property, but people seem to be unwilling or unaccustomed to consider the inheritance of virtual digital property, or have not yet formed considerable social awareness. However, with the popularization of digital heritage knowledge and people’s attention to digital heritage issues, in recent years, social media has gradually improved the processing of deceased user accounts in function; on the other hand, professional institutions and societies that help people deal with digital heritage more and more organizations. For example, Twitter has introduced a policy that requires family members or friends of the deceased to provide certain information to prove the relationship with the deceased Twitter user, and then Twitter officials will provide the following two options: the deceased user’s Accounts and data are deleted, or their data is archived for family members to view offline.
Since 2015, Facebook has allowed users to designate a friend or family member as the heir to their digital estate and continue to manage their Facebook account. With authorization, the deceased heir can modify the profile and homepage photo, pin posts and respond to friend requests. However, they cannot read private messages, delete friends, or send new friend requests. Facebook has also improved some potentially uncomfortable features to prevent some automatic reminders for mourning accounts from being out of place, such as birthday reminders. In recent years, more and more websites dedicated to dealing with digital heritage have appeared on the Internet. A website called “Goodtrust” helps customers to plan and manage their digital heritage. It has launched functional sections such as digital vaults and life story capsules similar to cloud services. At the same time, it also helps customers deal with digital accounts left by deceased relatives and friends. .
3. Legal boundaries behind digital heritage.
”SeniorWeb” is a Dutch non-profit organization that deals with many issues of digital heritage. Donna, 75, works for the organization and conducts research on digital heritage. Donna said that digital heritage is not just a problem for the elderly, many middle-aged friends also encounter technical obstacles and legal obstacles. In Apple’s operating system, for example, if you don’t have a password or the owner’s fingerprint, it’s almost inaccessible. Others who want to get the photos back must apply to the courts, as in the Page case in Canada.
Why is there such a hindrance? This has to mention the issue of legal authorization. The current law in the United States is the Federal Telecommunications Privacy Act of 1986, enacted by the United States Congress. Back then, the era of business networking had not yet emerged. At the time, the law passed by the U.S. Congress required electronic communications companies to refrain from making their content public without the owner’s consent or a government order, such as a police investigation. Although the law predates the rise of the commercial internet, it has so far been largely interpreted by the judiciary, as well as by internet businesses, to mean that families cannot force companies to give them access to the data or accounts of the deceased. This means that social media such as Facebook, Twitter, or technology companies such as Apple can legally refuse to provide all digital information such as account numbers, passwords, etc. to the family of the deceased. However, with the development of the times, Internet companies are gradually changing their strategies, actively improving the system, and empowering users with the inheritance of digital heritage. For example, Apple’s latest version of iOS 15.2 in 2021 has launched “legacy contacts”. The function is actually to allow the user himself to make relevant legal authorization before his death.
On the “goodtrust” website, users can create a will with digital information in 15 minutes.
Another Voice: Digital Legacy Should Be ‘Elegantly Forgotten’
Is digital heritage preserved or deleted? Maybe there are other options. According to a joking prediction by a well-known web cartoonist, at the current rate of global population growth, by the mid-21st century, the number of living and deceased users of Facebook will be equal, and by 2065, the number of deceased users will exceed the number of living users. And by 2100, social networking sites like Facebook will eventually become a “virtual graveyard.” Hans Peter, head of social software and services at Nokia in San Francisco, once called the collection of data generated on social media the “digital soul.” Thanks to cheap storage and ease of replication, digital souls have the potential to become truly immortal. Everything you do online — off-the-cuff comments, selfies, or embarrassing surfing habits — is preserved. If predicted, the digital legacy created in 2065 will be enormous. As for how to deal with digital heritage, people are divided into two factions: one is the “protectionist”, who believes that we should try our best to preserve the digital heritage so that future generations can inherit it, so as to have real access to the life, work and memory of the deceased. The other is “deletionists”, who believe that after a person dies, most of their digital heritage should be deleted, or let it gradually fade out of people’s sight on the Internet until it disappears completely.
Victor, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute in the UK, is a “deletionist”. In his 2009 book “Deletion”, he proposed a technical concept – Internet technology called “Elegantly Forgetting”. He believes that files uploaded to the web can have an automatic destruction date, disappearing after a certain point in time; or take technical measures to make the files more and more difficult to access.
In fact, companies are already putting these ideas into practice. A German company called “X-Pire” has launched software that can add an automatic destruction date to images uploaded to sites like Facebook. In this way, even if nothing is done to the digital heritage, there is no need to worry that after a few years, those embarrassing moments or the content that the deceased originally wished to delete will still be repeatedly browsed and downloaded. Maybe these digital heritage, like those old photos, will end up in a cardboard box in the attic instead of hanging them all on the wall.