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Illinois Prof Calls for a Federal Law To Safeguard Digital Afterlives

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the you-don't-seem-to-be-using-this-account-any-more dept.

Facebook 82

An anonymous reader writes "A new paper from Professor Jason Mazzone at the University of Illinois calls for federal laws to regulate what happens to digital accounts after the account holder's death. Mazzone argues that Facebook and other online services have policies for deceased users' accounts that do not adequately protect the individual property and privacy interests at stake. The full text of the paper (called "Facebook's Afterlife") is also available: "

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the solution is autodeletion. (3, Interesting)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496511)

And I mean, comprehensive deletion.

Outside of nefarious uses, the information of a dead person is of no pactical value to facebook or its advertising customers. Dead people don't buy anything.

As such, it is a cost center to retain the information of dead people. They should eliminate all such data, to keep a high relevancy with thir advertising customers, and avoid having stale and inaccurate data to sell.

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41496529)

And since this is so obvious from a business standing, we don't really need any legislation to encourage it.

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (4, Insightful)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496819)

And since this is so obvious from a business standing, we don't really need any legislation to encourage it.

Oh man, good joke.
Just like when businesses used toxic chemicals to conduct their business and let it slide off into the creek/river.
Just like when coal companies cleaned up the coal dust because it caused health issues and made cities look bad.
Right... I trust businesses to do only one thing... keep their wallets fat so the little that we peons do get when it trickles down, makes us just happy we have a job.
19th century here we come!

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (1)

Z34107 (925136) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496923)

How did you manage to reply to a post without reading any part of it? Unless you're implying Facebook having stale accounts is just as bad as flaming rivers... in which case, get some perspective.

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41497181)

What he did was make use of analogies. In fact, if corporations are perfectly willing to do those things, I'm sure they'd be more than willing to commit lesser evils. There was no direct comparison anywhere.

Well, that all depends on whether or not you think that this is an evil action, but that's not the point.

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (1)

Z34107 (925136) | more than 2 years ago | (#41497217)

It was suggested that deleting the data would be more profitable for Facebook. Jhoegl thought "therefore, they won/t, because pollution!" followed logically. You decided this was an "analogy," rather than a profound failure of comprehension or logic.

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 2 years ago | (#41497989)

"It was suggested that deleting the data would be more profitable for Facebook."

On the internet, not only nobody knows you're a dog, nobody also knows you're dead.

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 2 years ago | (#41497387)

Analogies are only allowed on slashdot if they involve a car

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (4, Interesting)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496599)

And yet, grieving relatives are likely susceptible targets for all sorts of different advertising that can still be targeted at them based on inferred interests they may share with the deceased. Call me cynical, but I'm sure they can come up with plenty of business reasons for keeping around data on a deceased person. Not only that, but they need to ensure that there are adequate safeguards in place to prevent deletions from occurring prematurely, such as an ex using private information to signal that you are dead, otherwise they may open themselves up to all sorts of problems if they go around deleting user information.

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41496687)

Or the fun one is just require X percent of your friend list to declare you dead after not being logged in for x weeks, you're automatically deleted/'retired'/whatever.

Without the aforementioned safeguard, it'd become even more fun when teenagers use it to 'murder' someone socially by collectively claiming they're dead and thus getting their account frozen/deleted.

With the login safeguard the account can be flagged when people know they're deceased, but stay active if another family member/close friend has access/needs to pass contact information further around the social circle.

Seriously, couple hours of coding tops. Bet most of the 'like' code could be modified to implement it.

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (4, Interesting)

vux984 (928602) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496613)

Outside of nefarious uses, the information of a dead person is of no pactical value to facebook or its advertising customers. Dead people don't buy anything.

But their shopping habits can still be used to predict what the living will buy.

To me the bigger question is things like the ownership of games on steam, your magic the gathering online card collection, your MMO account, and so forth. These things have value, and the parasitic EULA's claiming you don't have ownership of anything while the main sites flog you to "buy! buy! buy!"notwithstanding its clear that the survivors will often have a very real interest in these things. My kids have characters on my MMO account. My entire family plays my steam games. I never got into MTGO precisely because of the ephemeral nature of the cards... but lots of other people do have valuable collections.

If anything we should have laws to ensure this stuff does get passed to the survivors without hassle.

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496703)

If anything we should have laws to ensure this stuff does get passed to the survivors without hassle.

Just give your passwords to whoever you want. Put it in your will if you must, but more laws? No thanks.

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (1)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496973)

Almost certainly against the EULAs of most companies. At best you are renting those online games now.

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#41509249)

If the person that agreed* to the EULA is no longer living, how can they possibly be in violation of said EULA?

* Nobody reads them anyways

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (1)

Gerzel (240421) | about 2 years ago | (#41542727)

They can't but their Will and inheritors can.

Just because I'm dead doesn't mean I can give the Golden Gate Bridge away in my last will and testament.

No! (5, Interesting)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496675)

I don't want my Facebook deleted in the event of my death! My friends would lose all of the photos I posted of them! And all the comments and links and everything I posted on their timelines. And what if they want to come back years later and reminisce about old times. There are lots of reasons living customers might want to look at the information. Wouldn't it be better to freeze the account?

Death, pshaw. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41496793)

Had a friend who commented heavily on my photos. We had a number of back and forth conversations.

He then deleted his Facebook account because Facebook is clearly evil, and Google totally isn't.

He's since come back to Facebook, and I've re-friended him, however:

It still looks like I'm a freaking schizo, because half the comments on my photos appear to be me talking to myself.

Re:Death, pshaw. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41496809)

And this friend.... could anyone else see him?

What is you friends disagree? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41496811)

"I don't want my Facebook deleted in the event of my death!"

And if your friends don't want their photo kept after your death? What if they want to forget you? What if they want to move on? What would you have, a friends list and a dead friends list, and watch the dead friends list get longer and longer, and the friends list get shorter and shorter?

Facebook: Bobby5765 had died, we've automatically moved him to the dead friends list.

1 year later,

Facebook: Bobby5765 died one year ago, why not come visit his page, he'd have liked that.

2 months later
Facebook: Was Bobby5765's using his real name?

3 months later
Facebook: Did Bobby5765 have any relatives? Why not connect with them by selecting them from his contacts list below.

4 months later
Facebook: Bobby5765's friends indicated you're his son, we're sorry for your loss, why not remember Bobby5765 by visiting old photographs of him.

Moving on is important. What you want done with YOUR digital data after your death should be an account choice you make, not another data mining opportunity for Facebook. Default should be 'delete after 6 months'. Then your friends can archive anything they want on their site or computer.
What I don't want to see, is Facebook milking dead relatives for marketing purposes.

Re:What is you friends disagree? (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#41497153)

Not every friend is going to know to archive the data on their end. If they want to forget and move on, then they can do the same thing they do when they want to forget and move on from a bad relationship. Unfriend. Done. Maybe set up a system where anyone who unfriends you after death can refriend you at will, in case years later they feel like reminiscing.

What's the rationale behind not keeping a frozen account for posterity? Is disk space really at such a premium? Obviously Facebook shouldn't send spam to mourning people, that's just a strawman.

Data still there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41497543)

How does unfriending stop Facebook misusing the data? It doesn't.

"Not every friend is going to know to archive the data on their end."
It's not Facebooks data, they're not holding it on behalf of the person, they're certainly not holding it just in case a friend comes along and wants it.

"spam to mourning people, that's just a strawman"
No it's Facebook, and it's a prediction of what Facebook will do, and it's a highly likely prediction given their pattern of behavior. FB changes the privacy rules, the dead person can't opt out, FB helps themselves to that data. Are you new to Facebook?

"What's the rationale behind not keeping a frozen account for posterity?"
Posterity? Or Facebook's page hits? Just because FB can use the data for it's own aims doesn't mean it should be allowed to. As I said it should be an account choice with the default set to "delete after 6 months". Whats the problem with people having the choice to delete their account?

Re:What is you friends disagree? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#41497225)

If you don't want to see information about someone, you can delete them from your friends list. Though if their account were no longer changing, you'd never see updates from them anyway. It's unlikely you'd see Facebook presenting the information you've suggested since it would be really tacky and a PR nightmare.

The present generation doesn't keep physical or even digital photo albums the same way past generations did. If you automatically delete this stuff, you will delete important historical information. You would likely be doing it against the will of a persons living relatives and friends, and against the wishes of the deceased at the time of their death. It's senseless, and there's no compelling reason for such a sweeping measure.

Re:What is you friends disagree? (3, Insightful)

Instine (963303) | more than 2 years ago | (#41498011)

Then block it. Or stop using facebook. But it sure as hell won't be the only reminder. Or the 'worst'. I refer you to my earlier post on how precious a late loved one's FB account can be. FB could be smarter bout reminders, but I've found it by far the most considerate info holder of my wife's (in this respect). It allows you to register the profile as being of someone who has died, with very little fuss, many nice touches happened. E.g. She's still in my friends list, but if I start typing her first name in a post, it won't auto suggest it. This is a very nice touch indeed. Very considerate. Where as the local government might send me a form requiring her signiture to confirm she's no longer requiring service X. Srsly. Despite being told why we needed to cancel. And having multiple other similar notifications. She still gets more mail than me. Every day... So no, I don't agree with this.

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41496713)

This isn't just about social media accounts (although I could probably care less if they were deleted). What about digital media accounts like Steam, Amazon and iTunes? If I die, can I hand these accounts and their associated content over to my family?

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#41509267)

No, according to the friendly copyright police, that would be illegal and they must purchase their own licenses.

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496909)

Outside of nefarious uses, the information of a dead person is of no pactical value to facebook or its advertising customers. Dead people don't buy anything.

Someone should tell Ancestry.com that. ;)

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (1)

Bronster (13157) | more than 2 years ago | (#41497243)

Similarly when a person dies, their house should be burned down immediately along with all their belongings.

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#41497355)

You don't think that information may be valuable to their family? Even something as simple and ordinary as a stupid little chat video can be valuable when you have lost someone, I recorded my late sister's telephone messages for my mom who cherishes them to this very day because my sister was a very shy person and other than some photos of her with the boys and a few 8mm home movies from her childhood there wasn't any real video or audio left so even something that trivial was valuable.

I think far too many people act like they are somehow gonna "be there" and be embarrassed by the dumb shit they may have said or done on one of these things but you are gone so who cares? let the families have it unless they leave explicit instructions not to. If you are truly caring about that kind of stuff have a plan in place like my late uncle did, he had an agreement with me and one of my cousins that when he died we went in and cleaned out his porn book stash while I cleaned out the bookmarks and sanitized his video folder before handing the PC over Now I personally didn't see why it was a big deal, he looked at the same stuff every straight guy with a pulse has looked at, but if that made him happy? The least I could do for the man.

But to just delete without even giving the family a chance is just wrong, you can lose a loved one so suddenly and without warning which makes even the trivial precious to the family.

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (4, Interesting)

Instine (963303) | more than 2 years ago | (#41497975)

I can't tell you how important my late wife's facebook account is to me. It is betond money. I realize I'm not 'entitled' to it. And that one day it will die too. Maybe at the hands of a troll (they already hacked her twitter acc to do pharma spam). Or a data center outage. Or a change in policy. Whatever. Nothing is for ever.

But for the time it is there, it is greater than any scrap book, photo album or other personal treasure. Neither of us care greatly about advertisers using the data. It is a detailed, personal record of the happiest time I'm ever likely to have. So deletion would not get my vote! If it were deleted I would certainly want to download a copy first. I know I'm not entitled to it, but again, it's what I'd want...

Re:the solution is autodeletion. (1)

chrismcb (983081) | more than 2 years ago | (#41504503)

the information of a dead person is of no pactical value to facebook or its advertising customers

Yes you are right, because no one looks up information on dead people. When someone dies, no one ever bothers to visit any pages that have info about that person.
Facebook doesn't just sell stuff to you, it sells stuff to your friends.

Here's my solution (5, Insightful)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496547)

I just don't put the only accessible copies of important files (even photographs and blog entries) in the hands of facebook, google, or anyone of the like. Files are on my own systems (including my own webserver). Why should I trust those other sites to act in my best interest, whether I am alive or not?

Re:Here's my solution (3, Interesting)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496595)

Quite right. I do that too.

(Ignore social networking, and run a local fileserver on a nonstandard port)

Sadly, many ISPs, mine included, simply do not like the basic idea behind the internet, and are very displeased when they discoveer people with consmer accounts hosting servers, even puny ones with essentially no traffic, like mine. Many even actively attempt to frustrate such efforts.

Such is the world it seems.

Re:Here's my solution (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 2 years ago | (#41497959)

Sadly, many ISPs, mine included, simply do not like the basic idea behind the internet, and are very displeased when they discoveer people with consmer accounts hosting servers, even puny ones with essentially no traffic, like mine. Many even actively attempt to frustrate such efforts.

Fortunately, my ISP doesn't care. I run my web server at home on port 80 and ssh on 22. They've never had any issue with it, although my web server serves very few visitors. I do push a fair bit of traffic through ssh and they've never had a problem with that, either.

Although some times, my system actually denies more traffic than it receives (stupid hackers think they'll get in as root, even though I plainly state in the sshd message that it is disabled). That doesn't seem to bother my ISP either.

FWIW my ISP is the local arm of a very large cable company. I've heard it suggested that this cable company might not be so willing to overlook services run through a basic cable modem connection in other parts of the country.

Re:Here's my solution (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#41498393)

No hackers think they'll get in as root, it's just all automated. If you put up a Linux machine you start getting people trying to run IIS exploits against it even though they could fingerprint it and not go through the trouble. It's faster to just let the exploits fire than to wait for fingerprinting.

Re:Here's my solution (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 2 years ago | (#41498899)

No hackers think they'll get in as root, it's just all automated

That is true, the frequency is too high (and regular) for it to be someone sitting at their PC trying root passwords. I can say, though, that the attacks are more often *nix-oriented than IIS-oriented. Root attempts are frequent, administrator attempts come very rarely. Toor is seen often, too. Even when I see white pages attacks that start with aaron and go to zelda, I see root but not administrator.

It's faster to just let the exploits fire than to wait for fingerprinting.

Very true. I've often wondered how they find my system as a target, though. Whether they find it first as a web sever, and then attempt ssh, or just randomly try IP addresses, I'm not sure. The latter seems more likely, supported in part by the fact that when the attacks come from a single system (rather than the common distributed attacks) the same IP doesn't show up in the web server log.

There Ought to be a Law (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41496553)

Why does everyone think there needs to be some Federal mandate regulating every single damn issue imaginable?

The reason why we have so many big corporations with no competition is because the regulations prevent any new competition from coming in.

The *last* thing we need is more Federal Laws!!!

Re:There Ought to be a Law (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41496597)

Exactly what I was thinking. Keep the laws few, sane, and enforce them vigorously. This is a joke.

Re:There Ought to be a Law (5, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496685)

Probably because so many corporations would sell babies for dog food if there wasn't a law that says otherwise. There are many bad behaviors that at a personal level are covered by common decency but corporations are functionally sociopathic and only respond to laws. Then there's the people (many on /.) that for some reason think that's just fine.

Re:There Ought to be a Law (2)

tbird81 (946205) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496867)

Bullshit. They're not all Apple.

Companies are run by people, they're led by people, and people decide what happens. If an arrogant sociopath runs a company stacked with members of his cult, a company may behave in a terrible manner.

But Google doesn't have any laws stopping it from operating in China - it forgoes all that money out of principle of refusing censorship.
Then there's the drug companies refusing to sell propofol to people for the death penalty.

My boss takes a chance and hires some people who need a break. He acts ethically, and would not make money out of loopholes in funding systems.

If a company acts in a sociopathic way, then we need to blame the people running them - they need to be held to account legally and ethically instead of excusing them by saying "corporations are functionally sociopathic" - only if we let them.

Re:There Ought to be a Law (1)

tbird81 (946205) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496885)

* - they behave that way only if we let them.

Re:There Ought to be a Law (1)

Dutchmaan (442553) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496913)

they need to be held to account legally and ethically instead of excusing them by saying "corporations are functionally sociopathic" - only if we let them.

Hold them accountable to what? The regulations we don't need? Ever see a rich or powerful man just own up to his organizations BS...? For every 1 you see there's probably 999,999 who took the "FU I'm not going to be held accountable path" The only way we can hold people accountable is if we have guidelines ie regulation that we can point to and say we as a nation find your behavior unacceptable and you need to make recompense.

Re:There Ought to be a Law (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#41497143)

Your boss sounds like a good person. If only they all were. Is he the boss of a public corporation or a company?

The corporation refusing to sell propofol for executions probably doesn't want people to ask for something else whenever the doctor suggests using the 'death juice'. They have enough bad publicity from Michael Jackson.

Dutchmann got it in one, they can only be held accountable legally if there is a law. Passing a law and then enforcing it is how we as a society don't let them.

Re:There Ought to be a Law (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 2 years ago | (#41497041)

Corporations respond to people and their wallets--why do you people always try to portray corporations as a Sidley Whiplash figure and not an organization composed of real people that responds to the needs or desires of real people? Because it's not simple enough?

Re:There Ought to be a Law (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#41497155)

Because that is how they behave. They routinely behave in ways that an individual would not.

It has been demonstrated in experiments that where the decision and carrying out the decision are done by separate people they are collectively sociopathic. Each rationalizes that the other actually committed the bad act.

Ethical beings don't NEED to see a person's wallet to behave properly.

Re:There Ought to be a Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41497053)

Probably because so many corporations would sell babies for dog food if there wasn't a law that says otherwise. There are many bad behaviors that at a personal level are covered by common decency but corporations are functionally sociopathic and only respond to laws. Then there's the people (many on /.) that for some reason think that's just fine.

You are mixing Natural Laws and politician-invented "laws". The Right to Life is an example of the former: an empirically-observed economic phenomenon of how Rational Economic Actors must interact with each-other in order to make even the most primitive forms of civilization possible. An institution can recognize it or fail to recognize that Right, but it does not create it, any more than it can create the laws of physics. Building a society that fails to recognize the Right to Life ("murder is a-OK") is like building a car while failing to recognize basic mechanics ("square wheels are a-OK") - it simply won't work.

Corporations (legal bodies) are just voluntary agreements between human beings. They can be for-profit, non-profit, or whatever else the specific contractual agreements stipulate. Nothing about them is inherently predisposed to "sociopathic" behavior. Human beings are inherently flawed (mortal, limited in intelligence and patience, prone to animalistic emotions, etc), and contractually-established groups of human beings ("corporations") can reflect that. In a voluntary setting of free market capitalism, the flaws of any particular group can only harm those who explicitly choose to join or do business with this group - you are free to stay away. There is but one exception, a collective with which there is no choice and no escape, which is the state - the very monstrosity that you seek to empower!

--libman

Re:There Ought to be a Law (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#41497165)

You need to read up on the psychology of organizations where the decision maker and action taker are not the same person.

Re:There Ought to be a Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41497709)

You need to read up on the psychology of organizations where the decision maker and action taker are not the same person.

I have, and I have been known to reference such studies when arguing against statist institutions (i.e. governments). What you are doing is defending those all-powerful institutions, while attacking voluntary associations (i.e. Web sites, large and small).

Interaction with any and all corporations is a matter of personal preference, and if you so choose you can go through your life never having to deal with one. (If you are serious about individualism and self-reliance, then 21st century technologies will only help you in avoiding whatever it is you wish to avoid: one-way-transparent residential domes, greenhouses, 3D printers, open source robotics, seasteading, someday spacesteading, etc, etc, etc.)

Governments, on the other hand, are involuntary and next to impossible to escape. The jackbooted "action takers" operate on trillion-dollar budgets (nukes and all), and the "decision makers" can do anything with impunity.

Corporations are agreements between ordinary people, with no special powers. They cannot "tax" a penny from you without it being recognized as theft! They must compete with anyone anywhere in the world who might serve you better, whatever your individual preferences happen to be.

Governments, on the other hand, are endowed with superhuman powers - they make up arbitrary laws, print the monopoly money (deflating the value of the "legal tender" in your pocket), educate your children (and can take away your children), steal half your income, make you jump through hoops to keep the other half, can draft you to fight a war, can decide which combination of 1's and 0's you're allowed to have on your computer, etc, etc, etc. Governments exist by the "divine right of kings" delusion, recently re-branded as "divine right by an occasional anonymous vote, where some fraction of the population chooses a lesser evil out of several unaccountable politicians offering bribes of stolen loot". They own your arse, whether you like it or not!

What would you say about the psychology of an organization like that?!

--libman

Re:There Ought to be a Law (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#41499259)

Yes, I suppose I could go live in a cave somewhere and never be forced to deal with corporations, but most people wanty practical lives.

Re:There Ought to be a Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41501831)

If you want to be alone, you'll have more options in the 21st century than "a cave".

If you want to deal with other people, then you have to respect their Rights, including the Right to voluntary association.

What are you whining about?

--libman

Re:There Ought to be a Law (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#41502399)

Voluntary association, sure. But even many Libertarians object to a government granted charter that forms a legal entity which acts as a shield from personal liability. Revoke corporate charters and let them be co-ops if they want, then we'll talk.

Re:There Ought to be a Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41504775)

In today's world, everything is interfered with by the state, and all people, not just businessmen, must make do the best that they can under these circumstances. Are you also going to vilify doctors, lawyers, and farmers for their inevitable government entanglements?

Corporations (and even limited-liability corporations [aynrandlexicon.com] ) can exist without governments as we know them today, with a system of polycentric jurisprudence to recognize Rights (including Contractual Rights) and competing law enforcement agencies to defend them.

Of course, as government power is gradually phased out, these minarchist [wikipedia.org] institutions would be among the last monopolies to go - 99% of government is the welfare / warfare statism that is much easier to replace with free market institutions (or, in some cases, do away with entirely). Even in an optimistic scenario, the transition to a pure free market would take decades (with some regions moving faster than others), as people need time to adjust. Libertarians need to learn to differentiate their noble ivory-tower vision from rational gradualist tactics, and identify political priorities. Grandstanding statements like "then we'll talk" are good rhetoric, but can make for very bad policy.

--libman

Re:There Ought to be a Law (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#41504867)

And in the mean while, if you don't want functional billionaire psychopaths running about, corporations will have to be reigned in.

Re:There Ought to be a Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41507589)

At last count [wikipedia.org] there were 1,226 billionaires in the world, and I don't know any of them to be psychopaths or capable of doing much harm [randi.org] even if they wanted to. National leaders, on the other hand...

Your hateful fixation on successful businesspeople is probably a result of envy and other irrational and highly destructive emotions. You need to remember that, with the exception of government, all human beings are equal in their negative Rights. A billionaire can't print money (that everyone is automatically forced to accept as "legal tender"), raise much of an army (think of the liability costs!), or throw you in prison for injecting a substance that s\he doesn't like! A billionaire can't steal a penny from a beggar without being called a thief!

There's more to "capital" than just "material capital"; "capital" is your individual Right over all aspects of your life. Some people have more material assets, some may have more free time, some may be better basketball players, some may have a better reputation, some more children, some more inbound links to their Web-site, some may have better health, some may have a more satisfying sex life, etc. Whether it is better to be Bill Gates or Grigori Perelman [wikipedia.org] or Alex Libman is a personal value judgment.

The benefits that corporations receive from governments are just a tiny tax rebate compared to what governments steal from corporations. Getting BP to pay liability insurance (which would require more risk-averse behavior) and getting Microsoft to provide SaaS without implicit EULA's is a smaller change than you think. What needs to be "reigned in" is the state.

--libman

Re:There Ought to be a Law (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#41507955)

The psychopaths I refer to are corporations, your practicing psychology without even meeting the 'patient' notwithstanding.

When a corporate psychopath commits murder, it pays a fine. The rest of us go to PMITA prison.

Scratch deep enough and most of those billionaires fractured any number of laws to get where they are. Mostly they were shielded from the personal consequences by hiding behind corporations.

Why do you so despise government power with the sole exception of the power to grant a corporate charter? You seem to love that government particular grant.

Re:There Ought to be a Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41497205)

You are mixing Natural Laws

Natural laws probably don't even exist (unless you're simply referring to the ability to do things, such as stay alive). Or at the very least, evidence supporting the existence of natural laws is as scarce as evidence supporting the existence of a deity figure.

Don't confuse showing that it would be convenient if they did exist with showing actual evidence that they do exist, either.

Re:There Ought to be a Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41497587)

Natural laws probably don't even exist (unless you're simply referring to the ability to do things, such as stay alive). Or at the very least, evidence supporting the existence of natural laws is as scarce as evidence supporting the existence of a deity figure.

Perhaps before claiming that it doesn't exist, you should gain a closer understanding of what exactly is meant by Natural Law? This term has evolved quite a bit since John Locke, and it should be obvious from my original post that I am speaking from the perspective of modern libertarian epistemology. (Some [theobjectivestandard.com] have chosen to invent new terms instead, to rid the concept of its historical baggage, which has only added to the confusion... Did Einstein stop using the word "physics" after partially supplanting Newton, who in turn partially supplanted Aristotle?) The modern understanding of Natural Law has nothing to do with deities, primitivism, idealism, etc. Natural Law is a physical law of human interaction that is observed through praxeology [wikipedia.org] , economics, game theory, and other related studies.

To say that there is no Natural Right to Life is saying that wide-spread tolerance of murder would have no dire economic consequences, which is completely contradicted by reality. Data analysis here is not as simple as looking at various isolated civilizations with various legal philosophies in a huge set of petri dishes (we ourselves are inside the petri dish), but much can be learned even from our limited knowledge of legal and economic history. We are a part of a civilization that would be impossible without Natural Laws (aka, from an individual's perspective, Natural Rights) being recognized and enforced to a sufficient (and growing) degree.

Take away a politician-made "law", and some politician gets less political ego-boo, the voters s\he was wooing don't get the bribes they were promised, and some other solution not involving politicians or government is found instead. Take away Natural Laws (Right to Life, Right to Liberty, Right to Property, Right of Contract, Parents' Rights, etc), and we're back to the stone age (or, more likely, recognition of those Laws would get restored to the optimum degree possible, even if it means a horrendous dictatorship that violates some to protect others).

Don't confuse showing that it would be convenient if they did exist with showing actual evidence that they do exist, either.

You seem to be stuck on ye olde is-ought problem [wikipedia.org] , which many a philosopher before me have debunked in many different ways. It is only a "problem" during a thought experiment that detaches itself from reality - it isn't a problem in the real world, where individuals must make choices and experience their consequences.

We exist (cogito ergo sum), we find existence desirable (those who disagree are free to stop existing), we live in a universe with consistent rules that can be analyzed through scientific inquiry, and we are material beings that are subject to certain scientific laws.

If we endeavor to create electrical devices, we are subject to Gauss's Law. Likewise (and prerequisite to development of any advanced technology being possible), if we endeavor to create a functional civilization, it is subject to certain Laws as well. The legal question of whether (living, physically autonomous) babies can be "turned into dog food" with impunity is not arbitrary, nor is it decided by instinct or emotion - there's only one right answer. These Laws are not invented by men, but are discovered. These laws can be ignored, in the same sense that someone can try to build a wheel with the assumption that Pi == 3.000, but the results will be dysfunctional. The closer you come to the accurate solution, whether in mathematical constants or in law, the more functional the result. If there are individual Rational Economic Actors on other planets, then these Laws would apply to them as well (though we have not yet defined these Laws very objectively, since the only example we've ever had to work with were human beings).

So, in conclusion: Turning living human babies into dog food is definitely a no-no, regardless of what laws politicians may pass or fail to pass. As for controlling what happens to your online accounts after you die - that is between you, the sites in question, and any individuals to whom you wish to grant access privileges in your absence.

--libman

Re:There Ought to be a Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41496781)

Law professors (and aspiring law professors) have to publish a certain number of articles in certain types of publications to get certain types of jobs. One common topic for an article is "X problem could be solved by Y law." They are generally not serious suggestions--the authors and the people who read them (law students, mostly) are well-aware that they are usually meant to be theoretical approaches to problems rather than practical reality. Somebody who probably isn't familiar with the game of legal scholarship probably took this article WAY too seriously and submitted it to Slashdot as an actual proposal for legislation.

Re:There Ought to be a Law (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496931)

Oh, look, another Libertarian defender of his glorious corporate masters!

Re:There Ought to be a Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41497213)

Please do not confuse the Libertarian party of America with Libertarianism. They are more opposite than democrats and republicans are.

Re:There Ought to be a Law (1)

Alex Belits (437) | about 2 years ago | (#41519639)

Please do not confuse the Libertarian party of America with Libertarianism. They are more opposite than democrats and republicans are.

The only difference is how much the Social Conservative core of their ideology is hidden behind flowery language.

Re:There Ought to be a Law (1)

Z34107 (925136) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496951)

Who gets your iTunes account after you die? Or you WoW account? Or Steam games? I think we could use some precedent for what happens to licenses/accounts/other things wrapped in the trappings of intellectual property after one's death.

Something like "you must allow a deceased to will his MP3s," that makes licenses more transferable, can't possibly benefit established monopolies.

Re:There Ought to be a Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41496989)

Why does everyone think there needs to be some Federal mandate regulating every single damn issue imaginable?

Because we live in a culture where everyone is brainwashed by the government to act in the government's interests. The government influences public opinion in a myriad of ways (infinitely more than the public could ever influence the government, which makes democracy a pretty dumb idea if you really think about it), not the least of which are "public schooling" and licensing of media.

To a rational person this issue is a no-brainer: if you expect certain things to happen after your death (or incapacitation) then you must make proper contractual agreements while you are still living (and fully sane). The government should enforce those contracts and otherwise protect individual negative Rights - until a more civilized system of polycentric jurisprudence can take over. No new "laws" should be passed, and the sole purpose of government should be to manage its own gradual disbandment.

The reason why we have so many big corporations with no competition is because the regulations prevent any new competition from coming in.

It's true that government interventionism limits competition, but it's an overkill to say that there's "no competition". No private sector monopoly has ever existed in a sufficiently large (i.e. not an island with 20 families living on it) and sufficiently free marketplace - monopolies can only come from government force.

The *last* thing we need is more Federal Laws!!!

"The *last* thing we need" is to be vivisected and tortured for a prolonged period of time by a team of professional surgeons who specialize in inflicting as much pain as possible before the victim is finally able to escape into death.

Just keeping things in perspective here.

But Federal nanny-statism laws suck also. ;)

--libman

There ought to be a Principle! (1)

ryzvonusef (1151717) | more than 2 years ago | (#41497645)

Interestingly enough, this is relevant to my studies. Although my studies focus more on the accounting/legal aspect of it, we can safely generalise to a certain extent, since the those regulators are obviously affected by the culture. So allow me a little lecture. (Don't worry, there will be a tl;dr at the end)

Basically, we learn about rules and regulations, and approaches to it. And if we distill it, we can come down to two basic approaches: Rules-based and Principles-based. And frankly, the difference between them is as big as the Atlantic.

A rules based approach can be summed up as "Follow-or-Else! NO Exceptions!". They fear being too lax and inclusive, and letting some wrongdoing go unchecked, therefore rules based approach require regulation that is strict and inflexible. Every possible permutation and approved deviation must be encoded, to avoid loop-hole abuse. Everyone can and *should* remain within the framework; any difference is obviously is a sly attempt to get a pass, and hence must be stopped.

A principles-based approach, on the other hand, can be summed up as "Comply! or Explain the noncompliance..." A principle fears being too strict and exclusive, and fear some rightdoing being unfairly checked, and thus a principles-based approach prefer regulation that's more flexible and amenable. It should have a solid core, but the gaps between those core model is a flexible fence, not a solid wall. You should remain within the framework, but should you find yourself pressing the boundaries, you will be asked to explain why, and should there be a genuine reason, the fence would be flexible enough to allow you that deviation, and yet allow to be considered a part of the framework and not a deviant.

If we were to apply broad strokes, we can say that the US prefers a rules-based approach, whilst the UK (and Europe, as an extension) prefers a principles based approach. (Obviously, it is not a 1:1 correlation, but you can see the influence)

Which is why the US citizen are always saying "There ought to be a LAW!" for everything. You don't want a generally understood principle, you dismiss that as naive, since a stampede of rule-breaker will run through it the moment you blink.

No, what you want is a law, that is clear cut and fair. It's set down in stone, and let's everyone know what the boundaries are. And the more encompassing the laws are(note the difference between this statement and a mere "more laws"), the better.

And this is why for example (to pick a topic that is dear to the average slashdotter's heart), you have your amendments, and why they can say "it's digital, so it's different", because, well, their ain't no law that says it works on digital thingamajig too!

A principles-based approach would have tackled this differently and understood that the same rule held even in digital form.

(Please understand that I am NOT saying one is better than the other, merely explaining how the approaches differentiate whilst tackling a problem)

TL;DR You want laws because you know that everyone follows the letter rather than the spirit, and thus you want your preference written down in letter, inviolable and incontestable.

[E&OE]

'Simple" Solution (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 2 years ago | (#41499135)

the regulations should basically state

1 Each company should have a standard "Trouble Ticket" of type "Account Holder Deceased"
2 A Person having a valid power of attorney or other similar document shall be able to (when Proof of Death can be shown) takeover the account and or merge the assets.
3 in cases of Social Media the account should be flagged as belonging to a Deceased person (btw having flags for Fictional and Corporate Personas would also be a good idea)

and that just about covers everything needed (except handling the problem of account holders without somebody to wind them up)

Link to paper that appears to work (1)

xski (113281) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496589)

link [ssrn.com]

Facebook's Afterlife
Jason Mazzone
University of Illinois College of Law
2012

Do we need to make things harder? (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496639)

I'm not sure the right answer is to make things harder than they are already to deal with an account for someone who is dead.

What a huge mess, people these days have accounts everywhere. It seems like what is really needed is a dead person "cleaning" service to go through the deceased persons computer, figure out what accounts they had and then go hoover anything from them the family might want to save, then delete the account. You don't want to make it impossible for such a service to exist, as most people would be unable technically to figure all this out.

Also I don't think sites auto-deleting you is a good idea; I could see people wanting to leave the Facebook page (or the like) up even after someone was dead, as kind of a tribute. Facebook probably isn't going to keep it forever - but then again perhaps they would, as there is advertising money to be made just from people coming to pay tribute with a last post on the Wall...

Re:Do we need to make things harder? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41496871)

My mother died last year, and since she never told anyone her Facebook password, her account is still open.

Personally, I'm glad Facebook hasn't auto-deleted it. Family and friends still post to her wall on holidays, and her birthday, etc. Of course, she will never see these messages, but it makes the rest of us happy to be able to leave these messages, and to be able to still read her posts.

It's like a "gone, but not forgotten" type of thing.

umm (1)

superwiz (655733) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496683)

I am actually pretty sure that there is no federal guidelines on privacy after death in real life either. I am not a lawyer, but it seem like personal information which is privileged (legal, medical, etc.) can only be sealed with a court order. Which means that, by default, it does not survive an individual. Why would digital information be more privileged than, for example, psychiatric records?

Just what we need! (1)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496719)

Just what we need! More federal laws! Especially ones that regulate free web services. That would be a great benefit to us all.

Note to the sarcastically imparied: please don't reply to this comment!

Re:Just what we need! (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496877)

And what a quagmire to prove someone really is dead. Small startups would have a bitch of a time with that. Thanks, crusading do-gooders, for fighting for the dignity of people that no longer even exist!

The left needs to focus on issues instead of this ridiculous nonsense that masquerades as a problem or issue we need to deal with. It's not, it's all just riding on irrational sentiment.

AWESOME Fp! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41496799)

the top. Or were, 4the future holds are allow3d to play THINKING ABOUT IT.

It's because of Facebook... (5, Interesting)

Kleen13 (1006327) | more than 2 years ago | (#41496915)

It was Facebook that really got my Mom into this whole "Computer thing". Since she passed, we have used her account as a hub for pictures, gatherings, and contacts. I see the point of eventually deleting her account, but it was surprising how many images and data that was singularly relevant to my family that was on her account that isn't recorded elsewhere... I would never have known the depth of her digital involvement if I didn't review her account. It's been priceless for my family. My two cents.

So, what happens to my money in my Paypal account? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41497005)

Paypal has gone to great lengths to not legally be a bank. At a bank, or brokerage firm, or other places that I park money in, they have all given me a form to declare a beneficiary. Does Paypal do that?

Generally, in the State of California (and many/most? other states), unclaimed accounts in banks, ets, are turned over to the state. I found a few thousand dollars in insurance payments (I'm a doctoid), some going back 20 years.

Also, once someone dies, bank accounts etc. are frozen (or should be) to new deposits. I once bought something on ebay, turned out to be defective. I tried contacting the seller; no response. (This was circa 2001-2, btw). A few months later I found the seller's address. So I wrote a nice complaint letter. Shortly after I received a refund from the seller's husband. He wife had died. She did a lot of ebay, and he had no idea how to use a computer.....

Heck, my heirs may not even know I have a Paypal account, or care. Or an Amazon account, for sellers. $$ is disbursed to a checking account. What if the checking account is closed, and Amazon's disbursement gets bounced back?

Okay, I know there are some /.-ers out there, the anti-government Libertarian, of which I feel some affinity too, who would say the worse evil is letting governments get their greedy hands on such funds. Except, I can imagine a situation in the corporations get to keep such fund in the event a person dies, maybe with an up front death benefit choice combined with a perk> you will get 0.5% more interest if you make Big Bank you beneficiary. But, Big Bank sends hit-men out on a few customers every now and then.

I can also imagine a government doing that, just much less likely than a corporation doing it.

end of rant

Abide by the will (2)

Mr_Plattz (1589701) | more than 2 years ago | (#41497033)

I think the policy should confirm and enforce that all entities need to abide by the wishes of the deceased (without reason). I don't think we can simply come to a single standard act to {delete, freeze, publicitize} the information.

Then, close the policy with clauses that outline in the event nothing is in the will, the information is available via common law practices (for example a spouse having access to a safety deposit box).

If I want my account deleted, so be it. If I want it open to the public, so be it. If I want to hand over the keys to my social media account to my best friend to let him keep posting as me, then so be it.

What I don't want is for my wishes to be for my wife to have access to all my information (Dropbox, KeePass safes, bank accounts) and her to be denied that access.

Re:Abide by the will (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41497405)

Why would a for-profit company care about users which are unprofitable? No silly "do not be evil" marketing campaign will prevent logical thought. When you are dead, it is the end. Get over it!

Federal law about digital afterlife (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41497163)

Wait a sec. I was counting on uploading myself just before the inevitable. With NDAA and all I was worried enough about them Feds killing me in the present life. You want a digital NDAA?

Ownership and Respect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41497391)

Doesn't facebook own everything you post anyway even while you are alive? Taking user images for ads, etc. It is all in the terms of use. Does death terminate the contract as you are no longer "using" their services? Either way, alive or dead the content belongs to them. Corporate respect? HAH!

Even if their solution sucks like forced Timeline, (1)

D4C5CE (578304) | more than 2 years ago | (#41497835)

by the very nature of the final word, this time around none of the account holders will get a chance to complain [google.com] ... posthumously.

So is the next move after "Would you please rat out your friend for using a nickname?" [thenextweb.com] possibly going to be a particularly considerate pop-up like "Has this friend of yours gone belly-up?"

Don't trust the 'cloud' (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | more than 2 years ago | (#41497841)

If it's on the internet, it's not 'yours', it's someone elses. Your mmo account data, fb pics, mp3s "bought" on itunes are not owned by you, they're leased. Want to own yoururchased itunes collection? Then burn them to disc, that removes the copy protection, and now you own them, and can do what you want with them. Trusting anything "cloud based" to always be there for you is being ignorant. Don't like it, don't use that service.

My son died and... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41503039)

...a bunch of his friends submitted this form to Facebook [facebook.com] which resulted in his account being "memorialized" with no verification from any family members. Now we've lost control of his account and can't get it deleted, which was what both he and I wanted.
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