In February 2013, the US Senate approved a measure in Virginia that will make it easier for bereaved parents (or guardians) to obtain access to their children's social network accounts, if they have died while still minors.
The people who "got the ball rolling" in this instance were grieving parents Ricky and Diane Rash, who are longing to find what drove their 15 year old son, Eric, to commit suicide. Facebook, guarding Eric's privacy, refused to divulge the password.
In the meeting, I said: "Let's not wait for the first Israeli tragedy to 'get the ball rolling' within the system. Let's get it rolling already".
- Firstly, it seems to be a basic, moderate requirement, to have every Israeli Internet provider publish their policy in case of a user's death. Users deserve to know said provider's policy while they are still living (what if they don't agree with the policy, once they are aware of it?). Family and friends should also be aware of its policy, in case tragedy strikes, and they need to contact the provider to obtain access to the deceased's online material.
I continue to circulate the data I have culled from the eight Israeli providers, as specified in the Technical Guide and the Israeli Angle of Digital Death, but it is imperative that this information be widely available, not only through my personal blog. Also, I keep the list updated – for instance, I have approached the Saloona blog service twice regarding their policy in case of a user's death, on 21/1/13 and 12/2/13, but have yet to receive an answer.
If there will be a regulatory demand for all providers to a) know their own policy and b) publish their policy online, we will already make progress.
- Secondly, I believe there should be a default option: just like the terms and conditions checkbox users must tick when joining any online service, another checkbox should be presented, in which the user agrees with the provider's policy in terms of digital legacy (allow or deny access in case anything happens to them, and if so to whom).
- In addition, digital and virtual assets should be included within probate and inheritance laws, and use of digital legacy storage and guardian services should be encouraged, by adding a digital will to the legally valid wills in Israel (currently the only form of will addressed by court is a printed one – court will not address digital wills, even if signed with a trusted digital signature. More on this can be found in the Legal Aspect post).
It was an interesting conversation that included many issues such as digital legacy, the right for privacy, the right for perusal after death and the difference between Israeli and U.S. legislation.
I'll update on any developments.
Thank you Ayelet Yagil for translating this post.