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Digital legacy: what happens to your online identity after you pass?

Our life is becoming more and more digital. What does that mean for when we die? For example, what happens to the person’s social media accounts? There are no clear-cut answers.

Digital legacy is a grey area. Inheriting data is currently impossible. Even though almost everyone ‘owns’ data and thus leave it behind. You might even leave behind more data than you would think. You might not be active on Twitter or Instagram, but manage your insurances online. And many smartphones are filled to the brim with photos, videos, and WhatsApp conversations. A treasure trove of memories for the bereaved. But where do you save those memories? Or are there any personal conversations you would rather not have your children see once you are gone? Only one thing is clear right now: there is a lot left to clarify.

The digital world develops at lightning speed. That is why the need for new laws and legislation is becoming increasingly urgent. Because the last thing we want is to burden our bereaved with extra stress and issues during an emotional time. Like observing that the profile picture of a loved one was used for identity fraud, because the family was unable to cancel the account. Besides this, it is important to be able to decide over your identity after death when you are still alive. In other words, what information would you like to be online after you’re gone?

In November 2019, the digital legacy reached the agenda of the Dutch House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer). But how can you manage your data legacy while the legislation is playing catch-up and reality tends to be stubborn? One simple and effective solution is to hand your login details to someone you trust. Or to tell that person where they can find the information (behind a password). You could include this in your will. Also, please do not forget to give instructions on what your wishes for the data are. Or arrange things while you live, for example for your own social media accounts. Whatever your decision, please take the time to think about it and discuss it with your loved ones.