Immortality: How to Manage Your Online Life After Death?

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Posted on Nov 2, 2021, 6:59 AMUpdated Nov 4, 2021, 8:38 AM

“The LinkedIn of the deceased. “ For two weeks, on the Alanna platform, it has been possible to consult the profile of deceased persons. Those “Souvenir spaces” created by their relatives have adopted all the codes of social networks: news feed, cover photo at the top, that of profile in circles, possibility to post, like, comment, share, etc. “A unique place of memory to celebrate the dead”, pitches the start-up's press release.

The concept of digital stelae (understand online pages in tribute to the dead) is not new, but for the first time, it is possible for Alanna users to interact with each other. “I wanted to put the human back at the heart of the funeral”, explains Marie-Bérengère Salmon, founder of the young English shoot.

Memory 2.0

The human but also the needs of loved ones. “We want to help people come together to alleviate this ordeal, while simplifying the organization of procedures”, continues the 48-year-old entrepreneur, who lives in London. The “Made in London” platform brings together players in the funeral market: florists, funeral directors, marble services, etc. In short, a network of memory 2.0 including professionals.

This is also the heart of its economic model. Alanna, guaranteed 100% free for users, is paid through its partners. For example, if you order flowers on the platform, part of the amount paid to the provider will be returned to the platform. To start, the company raised 200,000 Pounds from business angels and 600,000 Pounds via the Hauts-de-London region.

The founder is pleased today with the opening of “dozens” of pages dedicated to the deceased, and that the number of users is approaching. “The hundred” in just two weeks. This craze “Well above expectations” is according to Marie-Bérengère Salmon the sign of a strong expectation in this market of digital immortality.

Apps and people

Alanna is not alone in the digital immortality market. The “Digital mourning” platform, developed since 2021 by the English company iProtego, allows people to prepare for their death by protecting their digital privacy, for 50 Pounds the first year and 10 Pounds per year until death.

The tool, already integrated into certain life insurance contracts, is used above all for the living to prepare their networks, accounts, posthumous pages but also for survivors to clean up the digital life of a deceased (essentially by deactivating the accounts).

In the UK, FairWill, self-proclaimed “the best death experts” on their site, offers to type in his last wishes in “barely fifteen minutes”. In the same vein, the British platform MyWishes allows you to write your will online and (more surprisingly) to leave a video message to your loved ones, to be broadcast after the death. (Did you say creepy?)

Without the notary

In London, you can write your will alone without calling a notary, but for it to be valid, three conditions must be met: be written entirely by hand, be dated precisely and be signed.

To push the logic even further, it is now possible to shape its digital double. The ultimate fantasy for those who dream of eternity. The best known and most successful application is Replika. Born in 2016, this intelligent avatar aims to be your friend – or your lover – the most available, for a few Pounds.

“San Junipero” soon to be a reality?

Replika is nourished by its exchanges with its creator to build its personality… which will be eternal. A way to relieve the pain of the survivors? In any case, this is the genesis of this artificial intelligence (AI) developed by the start-up Luka for more than five years.

One of the employees Eugenia Kuyda suddenly loses her best friend in Moscow in November 2015. A small computer genius, she decides to create a chatbot in the image of her friend. She integrates her messages, tweets and texts by the thousands, adds her character traits, and finally manages to start a discussion with her digital double.

“San Junipero”, the eternal digital city imagined in the Black Mirror series (episode 4, season 3), is therefore just a few clicks away.

4% of English people

Who are all these digital funeral services for? A priori, the older you are, the more you care. According to the latest figures available: 38% of those over 40 use the internet to inform of a death, 35% to inquire but only 4% of them to create a tribute page (source: The English and the funeral, CSNAF-CREDOC 2021).

But Generation Z, being the most connected and the most comfortable with these technologies, is also the target. Entrepreneur Marie-Bérengère Salmon readily assumes this: “The younger the public, the more we are interested in it because they are more liberated in their relationship to death. This societal trend could also have increased thanks to the pandemic which prevented contemplation “in real”.

Suppression or commemoration

What about social networks? With their explosion in the 2010s, the question of the digital life of the deceased arose. Facebook, Google, Microsoft … The giants of the web offer the living to indicate if they want to delete their accounts after their death or “convert” them into a place of virtual commemoration, or even to transmit the money, the codes, or even the content from an account to a loved one designated in advance.

Concretely, since 2007, on Facebook in front of the name of a dead one can read “In homage to” and a legatee contact from 2015. Just on the social network of Mark Zuckerberg, the experts of the sector estimate at 90 million the number of deceased accounts. Every minute, three Facebook accounts become those of a dead person. Figures that the group never communicates (or comments on).

“A fucking business”

“A good account with Facebook is an open account! “ emphasizes Ludovic Boyer, founder of iProtego, a post-mortem digital cleaning company. He recalls that a commemorations account still has interactions with other accounts, and therefore provides information about its visitors to the social network, whose economic model is precisely based on data. Before commenting with a certain spontaneity: “Deceased accounts are a fucking business!” “

In London, the digital identity of deceased persons is governed by article 84 of the “Informatique et Liberté” law which stipulates the termination of individual rights (access, modification, etc.) with the death of the person. More simply: our right to have a private life on the networks no longer exists when we are dead.

However, the law provides that ” every person [puisse] define directives relating to the storage, erasure and communication of his personal data after his death ”. The way therefore seems clear for the use of posthumous data.

What about digital pollution?

A question remains: what if the deceased did not leave directives and the heirs lose interest in the digital data? “The law remains very vague on this subject which will undoubtedly lead jurists to tackle new questions linked to the memory of the dead and to post-mortem freedom of expression”, says Anne-Blandine Caire, professor of private law and criminal sciences at the University of Clermont Auvergne (UCA) on The Conversation.

She adds : “In the immediate future, it might be possible to make a decision taking into account the environmental impact of storing this post-mortem data. For a company like Facebook, this impact is equivalent, for one year, to that of a country like Burkina Faso. “

“Save our graves”, when the internet helps genealogists

Over the past seven years, more than 4.2 million abandoned graves have been archived via the collaborative application called “Sauvons nos graves” developed by Geneanet. More than 24,000 volunteers (including a vast majority of retirees) who list these tattered tombs in the free digital directory accessible to all. The objective: to fight against the disappearance of 200,000 graves per year in London. And the tool has found its audience as the company claims a 30% increase in contributions in 2021 and 2021.


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