Death and Your Data

It’s been said that humans are becoming nothing but data for companies. That’s certainly a cynical outlook, but it’s not entirely wrong. As the CCPA ratchets up regulations on how companies can store and collect data on users, it begs the question what happens to our data after we die?

Several companies specialize in the destruction of your consumer data after you pass on. Recently California enacted data security laws that now allow you to request a company destroy any data they’ve collected on you. This option is currently only available to California residents, but it’s expected that other states will follow suit shortly.

If you’re dead, why would you care about your personal data? Good question. Think about it this way, all the iTunes music and movies you’ve purchased over the years, are actually the licenses to stream the content, not the actual content itself. Those licenses expire upon your end of life. Not leaving behind digital copies of your favorite films to friends and family may sound like a frivolous thing to worry about, but the implications of your digital footprint are much bigger.

Consider your medical records. The UK legally stipulates that medical records must be kept for at least 10 years after you die. Access is considerably restricted, but it is out there and subject to data breaches. Is there anything in your medical history you’d prefer stay private?

Most if not all search engine and email companies do not have any limits on how long it can store the private content of emails, cloud storage or other personal details. Would you be okay with your entire inbox being exposed to the world in the event of a breach? Probably not.

Some consumer companies do not have a great reputation for data security. When you are alive, you’re able to control what happens to your data and privacy in the wake of a data hack, but in death you and your reputation are powerless. There are things you can do now to prevent potentially embarrassing information to be leaked but it requires a careful comb of your digital profile. Perhaps you should be asking more companies to destroy your data, and maybe be more mindful about whose cookies you freely accept online.

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