Death Benefit: Why Can't We Sell Our Social Data When We Pass Away?
In Digital After Death: A Grave Concern, BBC Capital writer Eric Barton brings up a social media-minded question we tend to overlook: What happens to our data when we die?
Barton cites a recent survey of 3,000 customers, performed by security firm McAfee, which states that the digital assets the average American leaves behind are worth somewhere in the ballpark of $55,000. Although the study includes all manner of digital data we leave behind, imagine what social media heavy-hitters' data must be worth — and much of it simply disappearing when we move on, ignored or shut down by networks due to a lack of account use.
Compare that chunk of change with what our physical bodies themselves are worth to researchers. In 2004 a scandal centered at UCLA's cadaver lab exposed a bit of the underground dead people part industry. Even though you can't sell a dead human body for research, there's no prohibition against "processing and shipping charges". Properly packed up bodies can sell for as little as $1,000, while scientific research-based demand for specific, undamaged parts of dead people, such as heads or intact spines, can go for as much as $5,000.
In other words, the online data you leave behind is probably worth a lot more to business than your used up body is to scientific research. So I ask the question: why can't we agree to sell our boring grocery-related text messages, family trips on YouTube, photos on Facebook, and mindless shares on Twitter to someone that can put them to use?
Considering that the average burial runs about $8,500, according to eFuneral.com, a check paying out even half of the value of a good social sharer's online data would be a tidy sum to help our loved ones deal with the financial burden of saying goodbye.Continued on the next page