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What will happen to your Facebook account when you die? What about all your photos shared on social media, your texts with loved ones, or documents on cloud-storage systems? In just the two-year period from 2012 to 2014, humans produced more data than in all of human civilization before that – and the pace is only accelerating.

It’s not clear what people’s digital presences will look like in years to come, but it’s sure that an increasing number of people will be creating and accumulating growing reams of data until the day they die. But then what?

The law is very clear about handling paper documents and other physical property when someone dies. But as a law professor at Drake Law School who has been studying property transfers for years, I’ve seen that laws, regulations and court rulings are only recently trying to figure out how to handle the ever-changing realm of digital technology. So far, in most cases the information is controlled by the companies that store it – regardless of what users want or direct to happen after their death.

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