Digital Afterlives: Imagining Effective Policies and Regulations for Digital Remains


The digital platforms we engage with daily are brimming with the digital traces of the dead. These digital remains – or the photos, videos, and text messages left behind by deceased internet users (Lingel 2013) have given rise to the digital death industry – an umbrella term for platforms that offer services such as online memorialisations, virtual funerals and graves, and interactions with avatars of the deceased through chatbots and virtual reality (Öhman and Floridi 2017). Mourners turn to these digital infrastructures to express their grief, memorialise loved ones, and to experience the continued presence of the deceased through their digital remains (Kasket 2020).
The presence of digital remains amplifies the necessity for critical social and legal norms for guidance pertaining to access, ownership, privacy, and the ethicalities of the accumulation of these vast amounts of data. Indeed, without effective policies and regulations that provide guidelines for service providers and internet users, the dead are not afforded privacy rights, nor is their postmortem data protected. Left exposed and with no legal safeguards in place, digital remains are vulnerable to offences with tremendous emotional implications for the bereaved. In recognising the emergence of the digital death industry as a new area of exploration, my lightning talk asks us to imagine constructing potential policies and regulations that serve to protect our posthumous digital footprint.

Jun 8, 2023 11:00 am — 12:00 pm