“When you lose someone, people often have a lot of advice. I was prepared to deal with the funeral, the notary, the sadness, the anger. However, someone forgot to tell me about something. No one warned me that the internet was full of ghosts. I realized very quickly that digital it would compound my grief. (…). My daily life online was full of pitfalls. In my mailbox, I came across his emails. I also had to remove “Mom” from my contact list because her phone number had changed hands. My mother had already disappeared from my life, she also disappeared from my smartphone. “, the journalist Lucie Ronfault testifies, in her “Death on the Line” series of the Program B podcast. She discusses the topics of post-digital dead people.
Because today, it is clear: we leave ” many traces on the Internet, which create a kind of digital immortality”, analyzes Vanessa Lalo, clinical psychologist, specialized in digital practices. However, what happens if the deceased did not leave specific instructions for these traces and if the heirs do not think about the online records? Is it important to prepare for your digital death and why?
Social networks but not only…
At Repos Digital, a less than two-year-old start-up co-founded by Kylian Weydert, the services offered make it possible to manage all the post-digital needs of deceased people instead of their loved ones: “It is important to take care of social networks, often very poorly adapted after a death with insensitive notifications and reminders, to avoid hacking into the various accounts of the deceased, to recover digital assets, whether non-financial such as photos and videos stored in various clouds never recovered, or money in the form of cryptocurrencies or betting sites, e-commerce, neo-banking, and finally to avoid, for the sake of ecology, the unnecessary storage of data the polluters of a dead person”.
If the issue of social networks is undoubtedly more visible, it is also more advanced: today, “it is possible to turn Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts into memorial walls, assures Kylian Weydert. For others, steps are necessary to close them. More or less effective and more or less long. He recounts the case of a family supported by Repos Digital who “for ten months have been trying to close their Microsoft email accounts. It’s hell. We talk to engineers based in Seattle. In short, I stepped away from any rest for the surroundings.
Easing the mental burden after death 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 got a life in Candy Crush from a dead friend.” A real shock for the psychologist, who then discovered that discussions about the future of digital data among relatives were almost non-existent. And the services offered are still very few. “Unfortunately at the moment, there is no tool, process or method, says Kylian Weydert. The level of complexity varies from country to country. It’s time-consuming, tedious and not very transparent, a real obstacle course. »
However, insists Vanessa Lalo, “it’s really important to predict your digital death even if the subject is very recent.” Because if in 2022, most deaths are related to people less inclined to a dense digital life, over 40 are only 4% who think of creating an online tribute page according to a 2019 study ” The French and the Funeral”, for example, the rapid advancement of digital technology in life will create more and more ghosts on the Internet. In this regard, Oxford researchers have also concluded, based on Facebook registration and death data, that in 2070, there will be more dead than alive on the famous social network created by Mark Zuckerberg.
The legal ambiguity of postmortem data management
As Kylian Weydert pointed out, these masses of stored data also raise the question of the pollution they generate. asset Conversationprofessor 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 data after death is equivalent to the environmental impact of a country like Burkina Faso. in full hype discretion, so it is difficult to predict long-term storage.
However, the law, even if France is rather a forerunner on the subject, is still unclear at the moment. In 2016, the Internet and Freedom Act dating from 1978 was modernized with a Digital Freedom Act, which created a right of will over our online data. But the implementing decree was never published in the Official Gazette. “Foreseeing our digital death is also a way of choosing the image we leave, of how things will turn out after we’re gone, it can be interesting and reassuring to approach it from this angle,” says Vanessa Lalo.
The leading role of the notary
And if to avoid the future digital graveyard, the solution came from notaries? “In concrete terms, a person who is aware of these issues can now turn to his notary, to inventory the accounts, to take the steps, to appoint a referent to close the various accounts for example, and to include in succession digital assets. , list their accounts with usernames and passwords,” advises Kylian Weydert. It is also a way, by appointing an heir, to avoid any form of conflict between loved ones, Cnil still today points out that “in principle, a profile on a social network or an email account is strictly personal and subject to the secrecy of correspondence.” , but “Article 85 of the Data Protection Law, regarding the protection of personal data, provides that the heirs of a deceased person by proving their identity may ask the person responsible for a file to account for his death”.
No revolution is expected, therefore, since the writing of the will and the preparation for the post-death is already done by a notary, you only have to think about the inclusion of the digital part. “We can approach it all together as a family in the same way as organ donation. It can be done in an easy way without necessarily interrupting the discussion, but being aware of the importance it can take”, notes Vanessa Lalo. And if finally the important thing was to remove the taboo on this topic? Come Christmas, it’s less than two months away, we’re preparing our stuff, some jokes, and on the menu will be digital death, organ donation, and a “would you rather be cremated or buried?” “. Cheers, here we come!