I coined the word Dremains in 2009 to refer to our digital leftovers after we die—our digital remains.
The email accounts, social media pages, websites, comments you've left online, accounts you have with online retailers.....the list goes on. All of that is left behind after you die.
Here are three challenges I see resulting from Dremains:
1. HOW WE UNDERSTAND OUR RELATIVES AND THOSE WHO CAME BEFORE US IS CHANGING.
As a thanatologist, I'm interested in understanding how our youngest generations might get to know their long-deceased ancestors.
Your future great-grandchild—who you never met in real life—may search your name online for a school research project and encounter your online leftovers.
The opinion they form about you and their understanding of who you were as a person is likely to NOT be informed by verbal stories passed down, but from your actual Facebook posts, the photos you shared online and even the comments you left behind on other websites.
To offer an alternative explanation of this concept, imagine how our understanding of Abraham Lincoln might change if we could find a list of all the online websites he had accounts on, all of his Facebook posts, and a copy of all the comments he left online on other websites.
2. IT'S A GREY OWNERSHIP AREA
Who owns the rights to your Dremains after you die? Can someone in the future who decides to write about you publish a list of online retailers you had accounts at? (Online data breeches have revealed a lot of what we all wanted to keep hidden, and this loss of data control will continue to happen.
There is currently no legal precedent for how we handle Dremains from a legal perspective.
3. THE INTERNET WASN'T BUILT FOR DEAD PEOPLE
Think about all the content online published by people who are now deceased. The internet was built without a way for people to 'die' online. There's no way you can 'turn off' all the information you left online....it lives on, into eternity.
And even if we take the time to go through and delete our online selves, it's likely some archivation of your material has taken place and you have lost your 'right' to delete.
Imagine 100 years from now. What do we do with all the material online from those who have died? Will be build in a way to decide whether or not we want our online selves to die with our physical selves?