“Death 2.0,” “digital commemorative profiles,” “virtual cemeteries,” and “digital legacy in the Internet” are some of the most recurrent expressions that have been coined to deal with the emergent phenomenon of our “physical (offline) life” being survived by our “digital (online) life.” The array of implications (e.g., ethical and legal) that new technologies, particularly social network sites, have on our daily lives forced us (e.g., users, academic researchers and law scholars, hosting companies, and e-mail providers) to confront an unprecedented situation: What should (and can) we do with the “digital life” (e.g., e-mail accounts, social network site profiles, websites, online publications, photographs etc.) of our loved ones when they have passed away? How would be able to reach their online friends, communities and networks and let them know that their dear friend is no longer with us?
The death of a family member poses new dilemmas regarding issues such as privacy, confidentiality, ethical intromission and legality of accessing e-mail accounts and social networks profiles without not knowing his/her passwords to access such digital stores of information. Companies are reluctant to share any information without the explicit consent of the owner of the account. Who owns the rights of the digital content produced and freely shared and distributed by a person who just passed away?
(Photograph by Pedro J. Oiarzabal)
Back in October 2009, Facebook began to think along the same line, “What to do with the profiles of those who have died?” Their answer was to create “commemorative profiles” rather than erase the profiles, giving their online friends the opportunity to leave their thoughts and prays.
This phenomenon has created a tiny industry that manages your “digital life” after your death. After receiving an official notification of the death of one of their registered users (clients), companies such as SlightlyMorbid.com, LegacyLocker.com, GreatGoodbye.com, MyLastEmail.com, and DeathSwitch.com communicate the sad news to the deceased’s online friends and deals with their e-mail addresses and social network profiles following the instructions left by their clients. For instance, MyWonderfulLife.com offers users the possibility to store their last will in relation to the usage and ownership of their digital legacy (e.g., photographs, video, music, articles) stored in blogs, websites and social network sites.
Somehow related to this issue is the individual and collective production of Basque cyberculture. If anything, the Web is ephemeral. Consequently, there is an urgent need to protect and maintain our common global culture that has been produced in cyberspace since the invention of the Internet. What has been done to preserve our Basque homeland and diaspora digital legacies? Who should be in charge of creating digital archives to store the diverse cultural and linguistic aspects that constitute our online-based cultures? Let’s hear your ideas.