Chapter One Death and Data We all leave traces. On our computers, on our smartphones, on the internet. But does our data die with us?
Ivana Jeremić, Serbian Center for Investigative Jourmalism
Chapter One Switching Off #RIP
Ivana is 25. She has been on the internet since the age of 15. That's ten years of data - Facebook messages, emails, Tweets, Youtube videos, and Instagram pictures.
It's hard to estimate just how much data Ivana has produced in those years. But a look at universal figures shows the magnitude of the problem. Every minute, email users worldwide send over 200 million messages, Facebook users share 2.5 million pieces of content, and Youtube users upload 48 hours of video.
The internet never forgets any of that. Unless, of course, somebody actively deletes it. But how easy is that? Ivana has taken a look at her four biggest social media profiles to see what will happen with them if she dies.
How easy is it to close your account? What documents are required? And who actually owns the data?
Social Media Status Update
The social media expert
In theory, most social media profiles should be relatively easy to close down if the owner died. But what if your relatives simply can not find all the profiles you kept? Or if it's too painful for them to go through it all when they are still grieving?
In these cases, many people turn to an expert. Someone like Birgit Janetzky. The trained sociologist helps families manage the digital heritage of their deceased.
Ivana spoke to her on Skype and asked for advice. What can she do today to make life easier for those she will one day leave behind?
Birgit Janetzky recommends four steps.
Interview Birgit Janetzky
Birgit Janetzky, Semno Consulting
Semno Consulting offers advice to funeral directors on how to include digital heritage services in their portfolios.
"Who should be my trustee?"
Chapter Two Passing on the mess
Ivana now knows what to do with her online data. But what about her offline data? Things like confidential work documents, pictures and videos she keeps on her computer.
A growing number of companies try to find solutions. Many offer encrypted data storage. Their customers can upload private data that they want their families to have after they die. But there is one problem: Most of these companies are based in the US.
As an investigative journalist with lots of confidential information, Ivana is concerned about leaving her data under US jurisdiction. Instead, she starts looking for a company in Europe.
Eventually, she finds Digital Heritage, a start-up founded by two sisters in Munich. Their idea grew out of personal experiences.
Interview Charlotte Noltenius
Charlotte Noltenius, Digital Heritage
Digital Heritage is a Munich based start-up that lets people leave personalised "data packages" to their families and friends. The website is supposed to go online in autumn 2015.
Companies like Digital Heritage, AfterSteps, Estate Map, BestBequest and many others take precautions for your own death. Their business models are very much alike.
Digital Heritage Explained
Explaining the Concept
"A room full of boxes"
Chapter Three Forever Online Ivana has taken control of her online data. And she has sorted through the mess on her computer. But what if she actually wants something of herself to remain?
A Digital Memorial
The internet has become a place where people grieve. Friends share memories on Facebook pages, they light virtual candles or leave flowers on especially designed memorial pages. For many, this is cathartic: It helps to talk about the person they've lost.
Maybe then, the internet is not just a mess that needs to be controlled. Maybe it also offers possibilities: To live on, to be remembered just the way you want to be. By creating your own memorial page before you die, or by recording messages you want your friends and family to see after you're gone.
Ivana has done just that.