Digital legacy — an unsolved Problem

Julian Dorn
3 min readJan 4, 2017

by Julian Dorn

It was a rainy afternoon when a good friend and project partner of mine told me about the problems of digital legacy. A relative of him had died a few days ago. To access the computer and important files of the deceased an expert had to be hired.

That was, when I realized how important the digital legacy is and that it will become a massive topic in the future.

Digital legacy contains every kind of data you have, no matter if it’s local on your device or part of an online service you are using.

We generate new data every day, consisting of photos, local documents, messages, posts and tweets. Big platforms like Facebook, twitter and Google have a big influence in our daily life and will also influence the way we die.

Of course, not all our digital files are important after we die. But if you look at all the digital services, like online banking or online shopping you start to see the problem. While all the things you can touch, will be passed on to someone by law or by will. It is a big unsolved question what will happen to all your digital belongings like music, photos, movies, documents, accounts and web spaces. Some of these things may just be fine remaining for remembrance, others like contracts and bills, which nowadays often only exist in a digital form, should be taken care of. To regulate this digital legacy a simple password protection can become a big problem.

Even the big companies, like Google and Facebook spotted the problem. And are offering some solutions. The problem with those solutions is the restriction to a particular platform and that they won’t help if the computer of the devisor is password protected.

Many newspapers and online blogs released articles about the digital legacy, but they rarely offer good solutions. Most of the time users are recommended to write down their passwords and deposit them at a notary. If you are an active user of computers and the internet, and I assume most of us are, you will see that this is not a realistic solution. New accounts are created regularly and passwords get changed for security reasons. Updating your documents at the notary every time, would be extremely time consuming and costly.

The key question is, how can we help our heirs take care of our digital legacy? What decisions can we make to help them. And how can we ensure that our wishes will be fulfilled even after our death?

Currently there are no good solutions available. But, sooner or later we will all face this problem. We should care about this problem now and find a good solution for everyone.

A solution could be the project give — digital legacy. If you’re interested in arranging your affairs, regarding you personal data and access to your accounts past your existence, you should check out our concept here.

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Julian Dorn

Product Design | Design Strategy | AI Design | Design Systems