The web is increasingly inhabited by the remains of its departed users, a phenomenon that has given rise to a burgeoning digital afterlife industry. This industry requires a framework for dealing with its ethical implications. The regulatory conventions guiding archaeological exhibitions could provide the basis for such a framework.
Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia
four categories of firms:
(1) information management services,
(2) posthumous messaging services,
(3) online memorial services and
(4) ‘re-creation services’
…the online security company McAfee claims that the average Internet user puts a value of US$37,000 on their digital assets.
they all share an interest in monetizing death online, using digital remains as a means of making a profit.
For example, financially successful chat-bot services represent not just any version of the deceased, but rather the one that appeals most to consumers and that maximizes profit. The remains thus become a resource, a form of (fixed) capital in the DAI [Digital Afterlife Industry] economy.
To set the direction for a future ethical and regulatory debate, we suggest that digital remains should be seen as the remains of an informational human body, that is, not merely regarded as a chattel or an estate, but as something constitutive of one’s personhood. This is also in line with European Union legislation’s terminology regarding ‘data subjects’. Given this approach, the main ethical concern of the DAI emerges as a consequence of the commercially motivated manipulation of one’s informational corpse (that is, the digital remains of a data subject). This approach suggests we should seek inspiration from frameworks that regulate commercial usage of organic human remains. A good model is provided by archaeological and medical museums, which exhibit objects that, much like digital remains, are difficult to allocate to a specific owner and are displayed for the living to consume.