Digital Inheritance and Data Donor

Software companies like Facebook, Apple, Google, and the like are collecting and amassing large amounts of personal information about each of us.  A large portion of this information is posts, tweets, texts, pictures we’ve taken and published.  Additionally, there is a large about of derived and meta data such as our search history and geo-location data as we go throughout our day.

Much of the public discussions around personal information is around privacy.  But as of late, I’ve been concerned about being able to leave our digital footprint onto our descendants or in the public domain.  For example, I’ve taken over 500,000 photographs in the last 10 years, admittedly I’m sure most of them are not great, but this data set of images can be useful in a historical context.

Companies like Facebook and Apple should enable features to allow their users to designate how their data can be used, and ultimately shared, after death.  It should be possible to build the means to determine what type of data to either share with our descendants or public domain at a specified time after we’ve passed.

Of course, a feature that allows for data, and even accounts, to be inherited is not trivial.  This task is made even more difficult because there is some data we would not like to reveal even after we’ve been dead and gone.  And of course, no one wants to manually sort thousands of posts, hundreds of thousands of photos, millions of text messages for potentially embarrassing or possibly misunderstood items.  Such system needs to work effortlessly behind the scenes.

 


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