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So What is it That I'm Saying, Exactly?

It's now April 2014. March 2014 marked three years since my brother, Tal Shavit, was killed when hit by a car on March 2nd 2011, and it's still incomprehensible. 

In April 2011 his Yahoo! email account was hacked into and spam emails were sent from it: 


Screenshot: emails sent from Tal's Yahoo! email account in April 2011. 
He was killed in March 2011.

After almost three years of being in this Digital Death realm since, after everything I've read and wrote and met and heard and lectured, after all the essays, articles, papers, conferences and personal stories - in addition to my own family's tragedy - I can say that we can and should do more


  • As far as the internet users are concerned
    • We should be doing more. We should be aware that each and every one of us already has digital assets of tremendous value to the people who love us, and manage it.
      I get it, no one wants to think about a possible injury which will incur a memory loss, finding themselves locked out of everything they have in their computer and in the net, because they were relying only on their memory and no one else has the passwords and they're not written anywhere.
      I also get it that no one wants to think about the possibility of themselves dying.
      But you know what? I don't accept that. Get over it. Toughen up. Brace yourselves. Rise above it.
      Writing a will maybe isn't a fun thing, but it's important, so you gather your courage for half an hour, and you write down a will.
      Going to the dentist isn't fun either and you go anyway, and having an insurance policy isn't fun either, cause it makes you think about possible injuries, illnesses, accidents or death scenarios, yet you have an insurance policy nevertheless. G e t   o v e r   i t .
      You know what else? in some ways, this is more important than writing a will, because in Israel, even if you don't leave a will, legislation and legal precedence and social norms are in place, and people will know what to do with your physical assets even without a will.
      With your digital assets, however, this is not the case, as there 
      is no legislation, no legal precedence and no social norms - not to mention the fact that you're using international internet providers as well as local ones - so your loved ones will be dependent on the varying policies of each and every provider separately , in Israel and abroad. Even if you are not old enough or wealthy enough to have physical assets, you definitely have already gathered digital assets. Be responsible and take care of it.
  • As far as the Israel internet providers are concerned 
    • You should be doing more. Each provider should have a clear policy regarding the way it conducts itself when a user passes away, and this policy should be openly published, both towards the user when he or she opens an account and towards his or her loved ones, after his or her death. Currently these policies can only be found in this blog, as part of the Technical Guide.
  • As far as the Israeli authorities are concerned
    • You should be doing more. Regulation should be placed over the Israeli internet providers, making them clearly and prominently publish their policies regarding a death of their user. 
      Israeli legislation needs to be adapted into dealing with digital assets. Maybe the solution would be to deem digital assets as extra-testamentary, allowing for digital estate to be managed in a digital manner (many companies currently offer such online solutions), so it won't be a violation of current Inheritance Law and Regulations, Chapter one, clause 8a: 
      "Transactions in future inheritances: An agreement about a person’s estate and a waiver of his estate, made while that person was alive, is void”
      Maybe another solution should be considered, such as: digital legacy management sites, upholding certain levels of data protection, shall be considered as valid, for this purpose only.
      I initiated a meeting with the Ministry of Justice a year ago, but haven't heard from them
      since.  
    • The Army needs to do more. Since serving in the IDF is mandatory, and since each and every soldier fills up a form upon his or her recruit, and this form includes personal information such as address, marital status, kinship, etc., and later on, whenever he or she checks into a new base the soldier updates this form, this is a wonderful opportunity and each and every soldier should also specify his or her wishes regarding their digital estate, as part of updating this form.
  • As far as the international providers are concerned
    • You should be doing more. Just like each internet provider forces its users to sign their Terms of Use, and just like some internet providers forces its users to provide a phone number or an alternate email address in case their account will get hacked into, each and every internet services providers should force all of their users to decide what would each user wish for the ISP to do with their account after their demise and/or in case they'll lose their ability to access this account due to an injury, etc. Google is the first ISP to offer an in-house solution: Inactive Account Manager, but this service is an option, not a must.
  • As far as lawyers are concerned 
    • You should be doing more. When your clients are asking for your advice and guidance regarding their wills and estate, when they share their concerns with you regarding what shall take place after their death, you should be the ones drawing their attention to this subject. Tell them their digital estate entails assets of financial value as well as sentimental value, and these assets need to be taken care of as well. 
  • As far as individuals and organizations supporting bereaved people and dying people and their families are concerned
    • You should be doing more. If you are supporting dying people and their families, talk to them about the digital, online and virtual aspects they should be also taking into account.
      If you are supporting bereaved people who have already lost a loved one, talk to them about 
       the digital, online and virtual aspects they will also have to deal with, help them prepare for it and support them as they go through this as well. 
The change should occur from all directions: From "below" - internet users, lawyers etc., as well as from "above" - authorities, legislation, regulation, IDF etc., as well as from the "middle" - ISPs. This is the only way the necessary change could take place. And we need to generate this change sooner rather then later, before more and more families find themselves locked out of the entire digital legacy of their loved ones. 

I was recently told about a bereaved mother that upon notification of her son's death said "I don't have any recent photos of his", and when she accessed his Facebook account, which was still logged in from his home computer, she found about 800 pictures of his she didn't even know. And now imagine her locked out of his account and all these pictures, and not having them. Like Hallie, CJ's mom, said after his son committed suicide: 
"Never ever wonder if you're taking too many pictures of your child. I would give anything for a million more". 
 Screenshot from Facebbok: Scattering CJ

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