Property, cars, legal rights, bank accounts, each of it is transferred to the legal heir when a person dies. There is a will for every physical asset. Today with growth in technology and increasing dependency and usability, there is a need to safeguard even our digital data.
Ever wondered what happens when a photographer or a writer dies, who has all of his work saved somewhere online? Do we lose these art forms along with the artist? Crucial documents, communication and today even money in the form of bitcoin are saved online. What if somebody saved important data of a company on cloud? When they die do we lose all of it?
In a country with a population of 1.2 billion, India has just a few hundred of digital will writer. There is the Information Technology Act, 2000, which is applicable to all digital information, data and assets. However, its applicability is excluded to testamentary, disposition and wills. Social media didn’t exist when the Act was passed, while You-Tube was born in 2005, Facebook a year before that and Twitter in 2006.It is a high time when, that transformation needs to be brought in this segment as well. Our country’s IT law needs to match pace with the current scenario of information technology.
Here are some of the initiatives taken by few online portals –
BLOGS, PHOTOS, FINANCIAL ACCOUNTS
Like all creative products, literary works, research notes, photographs, etc, that are created online will pass on to the legal heir of the deceased.
There is, however, no specific law in India on this, but they are considered intellectual property and treated likewise. Similarly, legal heirs have the right to access bank accounts and online records with, say, the Income Tax Department. Companies will have first right to stuff lying in official email services and servers.
YAHOO – Yahoo automatically deletes if an account is inactive for over 4 months. In case a person dies we can also send an email t0 – email@example.com with a copy of death certificate and the account is closed by Yahoo.
Google says that in rare cases it “may be able to provide the Gmail account content to an authorised representative of the deceased user”.
But the post on Google Support adds that “any decision to provide the contents of a deceased user’s email will be made only after a careful review, and the application to obtain email content is a lengthy process.
Before you begin, please understand that Google may be unable to provide the Gmail account content, and sending a request or filing the required documentation does not guarantee that we will be able to assist you.” The same applies to all Google services.
Facebook gives friends and relatives the option of memorialising a deceased person’s account to protect privacy.
“Memorialising an account sets the account privacy so that only confirmed friends can see the profile or locate it in search. Friends and family can leave posts in remembrance,” says the Facebook blog.
It also prevents anyone from logging into the account. Facebook does not divulge login details of the account, but “verified immediate family members” can also request the removal of an account.
Microsoft-MSN: Account data on email or any other MSN service is transferred to legal heir after death if verified and preserved till that time.
LinkedIn Twitter: Account shut if ‘death verification form’ or request submitted.
Flickr: Account is terminated and photographs and content permanently deleted if copy of death certificate is provided.
Orkut: Profile removed if death certificate is uploaded and an online form completed.
PayPal: If death is reported, account will be closed and a cheque made out to the account holder is issued to the legal heir.
eBay: All data of the user on the buy-sell website is deleted if death certificate is faxed to company.
But needless to say this is just not enough. With the complexity and importance of data involved and the procedure of extracting the data there is a need to give recognition to transfer of digital data on death of a person, with a well specified rules, method and laws related to it.
Till then we present you a quick guide on how you should deal with your digital data
- Make a list of your online accounts, memberships and subscriptions. One of the easiest methods is to create a password-protected Excel spreadsheet using these headings: description, Web address, user identification, password, account number and special notes. Of course, compiling this list creates risk in and of itself, so take security into consideration.
- Appoint a “trustee”: Choosing someone to entrust with this access can be a difficult decision. This person could be a spouse, a family member or a reliable friend. It needs to be someone who would handle the responsibility according to your wishes. For many people, there may not be one individual to share all of this data with. Perhaps splitting the list and relying on two people would work best.
Others may not feel comfortable distributing so much information outright and would rather provide just enough information that their trustees would know where to find the lists in the event it becomes necessary. This is a huge responsibility and not one to be taken lightly.
(Article is prepared by referring to businesstoday.in and CNBC.com)