How to prepare for its digital death?

“When you lose someone, people often have a lot of advice. I’m ready to face the funeral, the notary, the sadness, the anger. However, someone forgot to tell me about something. No one warned me that the internet is ruled by ghosts. I quickly understood that digital would aggravate my loneliness. (…). My daily online life was full of pitfalls. In my mailbox, I found his email. I also had to delete “Mom” from my contact list because the ownership of her phone number changed. My mom is out of my life, she’s also out of my smartphone.”, testified the journalist Lucie Ronfault, in her series “Death on the line” of the podcast Program B. She addresses the post-digital topics of the deceased.

Because today, it is clear: we leave “a lot of traces online, creating a kind of digital immortality,” studies Vanessa Lalo, clinical psychologist, who specializes in digital skills. However, what happens if the deceased did not leave specific instructions on these traces and if the heirs do not think about the online data? Is it important to prepare for your digital death and why?

Social networks but not only…

At Repos Digital, a start-up less than two years old, founded by Kylian Weydert, the services offered make it possible to manage all the post-digital needs of deceased people in lieu of their loved ones : “It is important to take care of social networks, often less appropriate after death with vague notifications and reminders, to avoid hacking into various accounts of the deceased, to recover digital assets, not even financial such as photos and videos stored in different clouds are never recovered, or money in the form of cryptocurrencies or on betting sites, e-commerce, neo-banking, and finally avoid , for the sake of ecology, the storage of data unnecessary pollutants of a dead person”.

If the question of social networks is undoubtedly the most obvious, it is also the most advanced: today, “it is possible to turn Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts into walls of remembrance, assures Kylian Weydert. For others, steps are needed to close them. More or less effective and more or longer. He recounts the case of a family supported by Repos Digital, which “for ten months was trying to close email accounts in Microsoft. It’s hell. We’re talking to engineers based in Seattle.” In other words, steps away from any rest for the entourage.

Post-death mental burden relief for loved ones

“I started working on this topic of digital death a few years ago because of a personal experience, explains Vanessa Lalo. I received in Candy Crush life from a dead friend”. A real shock for the psychologist who then found that discussions on the future of digital data between relatives are almost non-existent. And the services offered are still few. “Unfortunately for the moment, there is no tool, process or method , the lot of Kylian Weydert. The level of complexity varies from site to site. It’s time-consuming, tiring and not very transparent, a real obstacle course. »

However, Vanessa Lalo insists, “it’s really important to predict your digital death even if the topic is very new.” Because if in 2022, the majority of deaths concern people who are less susceptible to digital life, the over 40s are only 4% to think of creating an online recognition page according to a 2019 that study “The French and the funeral” for example, the The rapid development of digital technology in life will create more and more ghosts online. In this regard, Oxford researchers also concluded, based on Facebook registration and death data, that in 2070, there will be more dead than alive in the famous social network created by Mark Zuckerberg.

The legal murky of data management after death

As Kylian Weydert points out, these masses of stored data also raise the question of the pollution they generate. In The Conversation, the professor of private law and criminal sciences at Clermont Auvergne University, Anne-Blandine Caire recalled in 2020, “that for a company like Facebook, the storage of post-mortem data is equivalent to the effect in the environment of ‘a country. like Burkina Faso’. entirely hype gentleness, so it is difficult to imagine long-term storage.

However, the law, even though France is a pioneer on the subject, is still vague today. In 2016, the Internet and freedom act from 1978 was modernized with a digital freedom act, which created a right of will for our online data. But the implementing decree was never published in the Official Journal. “By anticipating our digital death, it’s also a way to choose the image we leave behind, how things will be after we’re gone, it can be interesting and reassuring to approach it from this angle “, said Vanessa Lalo.

The leading role of the notary

And if to avoid future digital cemeteries, the solution comes from notaries? “Concretely, a person who is aware of these issues can now turn to his notary, to inventory the accounts, proceed with the procedures, appoint a referent for closing the various accounts for example, and include the digital assets in sequence. people, list their accounts with usernames and passwords,” advises Kylian Weydert. It is also a way, by appointing a legatee, to avoid any kind of conflict between loved ones, Cnil still indicates today that “in principle, a profile on a social network or an email account is strictly personal and subject to correspondence secrecy.”, but “Article 85 of the Data Protection Act, related to the protection of personal data, provides that the heirs of a deceased person who provides proof of their identity may be asked of the person responsible for a file to keep the account of his death.”

No revolution is expected, therefore, since the writing of your will and preparation for death is done with a notary, you only need to think about the inclusion of the digital part. “We can approach all this as a family in the same way as organ donation. It can be done in a light way without having to stop the discussion but by being aware of the importance it can do,” said Vanessa Lalo And if in the end the important thing is to lift the taboo on the subject? Come Christmas, less than two months away, we are preparing our topics, a little joke, and on the menu are digital death, organ donation and a “would you rather be cremated or buried?” “. Rejoice, here we are!

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