Photos, research, music, records: What will happen to your digital legacy after you die?

Many older Aussies don't know how to preserve their digital possessions: study

Technology
Edith Cowan University researcher Derani Dissanayake says older Australians don't know how to preserve their digital possessions.

Edith Cowan University researcher Derani Dissanayake says older Australians don't know how to preserve their digital possessions.

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Will your loved-ones be able to access your online photos, music and family records or will they be lost forever?

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WHAT will happen to all your photos, or your records, or family research on your social media account or stored in the cloud, if you suddenly died.

Priceless family photos and other memories are being lost forever because older Australians don't know how to preserve their 'digital legacies' after death, according to researchers at Edith Cowan University.

It's one of the main findings from a research project by ECU Master of Computer Science student Derani Dissanayake, who surveyed people aged 65 and older about their knowledge and attitudes toward their digital property after they pass away.

"Our research found there's a real lack of understanding by older Australians about what happens to their family photos, social media accounts and other digital possessions after they die," she said.

"Most people assumed ownership would automatically be passed on to their children or heirs with the computer or smartphone they used to access a service like Facebook, Apple iCloud or Google Photos.

"However, because of the way this information is stored and accessed, it's not as simple as just bequeathing those photos, music, books or even video games to someone.

Ms Dissanayake said there are enormous inconsistencies in how technology platforms treat the death of their users and their digital assets.

"These inconsistencies are contributing to the confusion and lack of awareness among older people, ultimately leading to their digital assets being lost forever," she said.

Microsoft's legacy policy allows the 'next of kin' to receive access to certain data.

Google has a 'Digital Heir' policy that allows for data deletion after up to 12 months of inactivity.

Twitter deletes all data after 30 days.

The research recommends new, across-the-board legislation to facilitate the transfer and access of digital content of a deceased person's estate by a nominated heir.

"As well as making transfer easier, legislation should allow Australians to indicate whether their information, particularly on social media platforms, is deleted or memorialised upon their death," Ms Dissanayake said.

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