The law evolves linearly. Technology evolves exponentially.
Some of the largest technology companies around today were born in this millennium.
Facebook was founded in 2004. Today it has a billion active users. Twitter was founded in 2006. Today it has around 100 million users. WhatsApp was founded in 2009. Today it has 990 million users.
Every day, thousands of users die. For example, 10,000 Facebook users die each day.
What happens to these accounts? What should happen to these accounts?
The law surrounding digital death remains to be made. This means that technology companies are making the law in this new wild west. And they decide how your account is dealt with posthumously.
Facebook has added a new setting that gives users the option of having their account permanently deleted when they die.
Or, if they wish, they can choose to appoint a friend or family member to take control of some aspects of the account after their death.
In the case of Facebook, you have to manually select either option. Neither one is the default.
Companies must be careful in creating default options. People tend to stick with the default setting, as seen by the rates of organ donation. In places where you have to opt-out of organ donation, the rate of donation is over 90%. In places, where you have to opt-in to organ donation, the rate of donation is around 15%.
Defaults matter. Technology companies must use them wisely and respectfully. Death is inevitable.