This week, STEP is launching its “Protect your digital memories for future generations” campaign to increase public awareness of the need to make plans for digital assets. This public facing campaign focuses on sentimental digital possessions such as photos, videos and social accounts. It provides some simple actions people can take to ensure digital possessions aren’t lost or inaccessible in the event of their death or incapacity.
Why are we doing this?
Lack of public awareness about what will happen to digital assets on death or incapacity was a key finding in STEP’s 2021 report – Digital Assets: A Call to Action. Other findings included:
- A quarter of estate practitioners reported that their clients had experienced difficulties accessing or transferring digital assets on death or incapacity.
- Social media, email accounts and cloud storage for photos and documents are most commonly asked about by clients.
- 90% of practitioners expect that client demand for advice about digital assets will increase in future, but close to half of respondents had not prepared to assist clients with digital assets.
- Over 80% of estate practitioners had not used a cloud providers pre-planning tools themselves and over 40% had not even heard of them.
These findings have been further supported by a recent STEP-commissioned YouGov poll of 2,000 people in the UK, in which 64% of respondents said that what happens to their sentimental digital possessions after they have gone is either important or very important to them, but 57% have made no plans at all for passing on their digital assets. Only 3% of respondents had used the digital legacy tools provided by Google, Apple and others.
Our campaign therefore seeks to address these issues. It aims to get people thinking about what would happen to their photos, social accounts and videos after they’ve gone. It highlights that without planning, they may be lost forever – depriving future generations of these digital memories.
Where will the campaign be run?
The campaign will be largely run on digital channels due to the relevance of those channels to the campaign message. We have developed a bespoke website – memories.step.org – and a video to share on digital channels, which aims to highlight the issue and drive people to the website.
The website focuses on three key asks:
- Update your legacy settings on Google, Apple, Facebook and other platforms.
- Talk to your family and friends about what you want to happen to your digital assets.
- Share our video to help us spread the word and educate more people on the importance of protecting your digital assets for future generations.
Our new website provides easy tips for how to plan what will happen to our digital assets when we are no longer able to access them. It only takes a few minutes to use the legacy tools that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other providers already have in place. Just 10 minutes now could save our loved ones a great deal of distress in the future.
What needs to change?
As digital technology becomes integral to our personal lives, our digital assets are becoming increasingly important. When we create an online account with service providers like Apple, Google and Facebook, we agree to terms and conditions that emphasise data privacy. Yet, many people do not plan for what will happen if they are no longer around or able to make decisions about such accounts and other digital assets.
There are often circumstances where family or loved ones would need or want to access a digital account when a loved one dies or becomes incapacitated. For example:
- They might have sentimental value such as photos, videos, emails.
- The online content might need to be controlled to protect the privacy of the deceased.
- Access might be required to obtain passwords and login details in order to safeguard the deceased’s financial property.
In any of these circumstances you would want a trusted love one to manage these digital accounts just as you would want to them to manage your financial accounts.
What we are calling for?
The campaign also highlights some areas that governments and service providers need to address to help families protect their digital assets. STEP and its members are engaging with governments and service providers globally to produce industry solutions and best practice that will help families plan for their futures with certainty and clarity. We are calling for the following changes:
- Every service provider to provide, and encourage users to make use of, a comprehensive legacy tool to enable people to decide what happens to their account.
- Every service provider to have a clause that allows access to a nominated person within its terms and conditions.
- Legislation that allows access to a nominated person in the appropriate circumstances.
Ultimately, we believe the law needs to stay up to date in all countries to ensure that individuals enjoy the same rights and freedoms to control their digital assets as they do their financial assets.
This is a global issue and we want to get the message out to people all over the world. Therefore, please spread the word as far as possible and share this information with your clients, your family and your friends.
Emily Deane TEP, STEP Technical Counsel & Head of Government Affairs