We spend hours on the internet every day, living our lives through social media accounts, paying bills, writing emails, and even handling our bank accounts, but what happens to our accounts when we die? Who's in charge of our digital afterlife?
"For the property rights, the inheritor has the legal right, lawful right to inherit the digital legacy as long as it can be transferred," said Wu Jun, a research fellow from Institute of Law at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "But if they cannot be transferred, they have to talk to the platform service provider for the contract issues. There is no much difference between various jurisdictions, various countries. So I think it can be achieved on the current legal mechanism and legal systems."
According to the Huxiu business information platform, by the year 2100, Facebook will have 4.9 billion deceased users. And for the Chinese social media app WeChat, it is estimated that the number of deceased users will surpass the living after 2065.
At present, Facebook has a feature enabled to memorialize an account after someone has died. Users are given an option to completely delete their account after their death or make a friend or family member accountable through a "legacy contact." As per the policy of Twitter, the account of the deceased remains active until a relative or friend gets in touch with the company. For Tencent, if the account has not been logged in for a long time, the company will withdraw the account. Weibo is pretty much like Facebook. Family or friends can apply for account protection, and transfer the account after the user passes away.
China has been trying to resolve this issue by adopting regulations. Earlier this year, the National People's Congress adopted a new civil code that included the right to inherit digital property.
Wu said: "At present, I think the civil code is the first one to specifically recognize there's digital internet property existed. But for the further details, I think the civil code just leaves the space open for the further legislation and further regulation to be adopted by the relevant organ of the government and congress."
There's also been an increasing number of companies offering digital inheritance services, facilitating passing social accounts and digital cryptocurrencies to the beneficiaries after one's passing.
Whether it's through a service company or social media platform, it's time to start thinking about your assets. What is the future of your assets after death?