Humans, both poor and rich have continued to seek out the greatest quest since the dawn of mankind; how do we stay alive in this world? Fortunately, (or not fortunately) new technologies are emerging both now, including some fascinating developments by leading think tanks, including Stanford.
[After Life Technology emerges to store, replicate, and even reanimate the deceased based on the digital data we're emitting every day]
Whether you find it creepy, narcissistic, or a thoughtful way to connect with future-generations, this is a choice we’ll all be forced to reckon with. Should we shutter accounts? Allow them to be memorials, with or without comments? Allow data to be used to digitally reanimate us? There’s even impacts to corporations, as employees who are public in social channels who will eventually leave this plane, and a communications plan will need to be erected to deal with both the grief at a human way, but also how their personal, or hybrid (work/personal), or corporate social media accounts will be used.
[Even employers need to plan an after-life policy for employees using personal social media for business purposes]
Currently, Altimeter has found that there are hundreds of employees in many companies using personal social accounts for work. We also find that corporate accounts blend and merge with personal accounts, making the blue between personal and work, sometimes indistinguishable. The following matrix breaks down some likely scenarios that could occur:
|Family of deceased mandates content to be removed||IP created at work is owned by company, yet employee may have used personal social accounts||IP created at work is often owned by company but now as people use personal social accounts, who owns?|
|Deceased employee has content set to publish on timer||Deceased employee has content on timer, set to publish in coming weeks, potentially conflicting with announcement strategy, messaging and general confusion.||Does company have ability or right to alter settings or access login credentials?|
|Digital reanimation efforts on former deceased employee||A digital reanimation company seeks to activate likeness of former employee, including using content created around workplace||IP ownership at question, including potential monetization of reanimate likeness|
|Family requests social media accounts||The family requests access to social media accounts, except they were created at work, and span both personal and work life||Questions cause legal action due to IP, personal information rights, privacy, with variations at every country|
|Family has access to corporate social media accounts||Using Lifelocker, the deceased has turned over access to social accounts that deceased employee used during work.||Ownership is not clear, as the account spans personal and professional usage.|
While immature, there are several impacts to society, business, family, law that should give us all pause to consider, here’s a running list of what I’ve observed:
Impact to Society
- Research: There’s been some expert research conducted by Jed Brubaker on this topic, including publishing of papers and speeches.
- Mashable: What happens to your social media account after you die. Some interesting examples of wills, legal matters, social network terms of service.
- Officials debate who can interact with a deceased social networking account after death. In one sad case, bullies continue to harass a deceased on social networking account but policies and settings aren’t clear how to stop it.
- First hand account from Robert Fransgaard, who shares the steps he went through managing a deceased loved one. Please read a 5 practical steps in handling the social media presence of a deceased.
- Social Media Wills: There are strong arguments that individuals need to draft a will on how your social accounts will be used post-life, so family members aren’t left guessing, nor bicker over your wishes. Here’s the elements to have in your social media will.
- Corporate Social Media Policies Post-Life: While I don’t see much online, companies must also develop social media policies on how hybrid accounts (personal accounts that are branded with company, like (LionelAtDell) will be used, or not used. Could public social media content created at work be used by third parties including the family, or future digital reanimation companies?
- Most employment contracts indicate that all content created at the company (on company networks, or software) is owned by the company. What right does a company have to use that public facing social media content, after an employee passes on?
- Social Networking Deceased Operations: A number of social networks have forms to allow family to manage, shutter, or archive the deceased social networking accounts, see Google requires you to snail mail a letter, Twitter asks you to also mail physical documentation, apparently Facebook provides a “memorial state” feature than enables a user to be remembered.
- Future: I visited the Stanford Virtual Reality lab last month, and was able to hear from the Professors who have a simulated lab that they’re already starting to experiment with aggregating Facebook photos to recreate faces. They could easily do this for the deceased.
- Legacy Locker: Allows for the loved ones of a deceased to manage the social media accounts, ecommerce accounts, banking accounts, and more, through a one-stop management tool.
- _LivesOn: Slated to launch soon, this tool would provide Tweets post-life for deceased to communicate with those around them based on analysis of your existing twitter content and behaviors.
- Microsoft Research is conducting an experiment called Life Bits and is capturing an individuals full life on digital record, to understand how to use this technology in a number of methods
- LifeNaut.com was created to help people build a rich profile of information that preserves their essential, unique qualities for future generations and family members.
A New Industry Will Slowly Emerge to Digitally Reanimate The Deceased
Expect a new industry to emerge that offers the following services: Estate planners factor in social media accounts, and blogs and websites, as part of the estate. New software emerges to allow people to opt-in to have themselves digitally communicating with their future kin for generations. In a few short years, expect new virtual reality and simulation software to aggregate and analyze a deceased photos/videos from social networks, and replicate their face, mannerisms, in a way we are most familiar with. In the not-so-radical future, expect that future generations will be able to have the capability to replicate you in a virtual manner, based on the digital trails we’re leaving behind by the gigabyte.
Assume technology will advance to digitally reanimate us, individuals, families, officials, employers must plan for this inevitable future now.
(Photo Credits used under Creative Commons by Raffaello)