All the content in the blog is available free of charge and can be found in the menu to the left.
Please feel free to scroll down in order to become acquainted with all the content which might possibly be of interest or of service to you


Heading towards a change in Israeli legislation?

Following the meeting in ILITA (Israeli Law, Information and Technology Authority in the Ministry of Justice); I had a meeting at the Ministry of Justice in early April 2013 with the following representatives: the Head of litigation and advisory department, attorney Erez Kaminitz, Director of Intellectual Property Law; attorney Howard Poliner ; attorney Ariel Zvi and interns Yishai Pearlman and Moshe Frucht; and attorney Nir Gerson, who is Head of Technology at ILITA.

I introduced the following topics: digital legacy, digital estate planning, digital and virtual assets and property; and have briefly reviewed the situation in these fields, both generally and legally:

I presented the current situation in Israel: No network provider publishes its policy in case of death of the user; some have questionable policies; another company has yet to answer: 
We focused on Israeli inheritance laws, and deconstructed basic concepts: will the definitions used worldwide will also apply here? The word inheritance bears legal meanings when using the terminology of digital inheritance, and decisions about how to treat such meanings in Israel has yet to be taken. 

This was an initial meeting, to mark the beginning of a process, but I did left the meeting feeling that such process exists, as well as people to communicate with in his regard. I met people who, recognizing the importance of this subject, appeared genuinely interested in learning more; and I do hope that as a result, Israeli legislation will eventually be changed.

I will keep updating. 

Thank you Noa Ron for translating this post. 


Google's new solution: Inactive Account Manager

Google posted an announcement on their blog on April 11th, 2013 that caused a stir, about a new service they are launching: Inactive Account Manager. More information is available here, on Google's general support, under "User Accounts".

The service allows users to pre-set for each of their Google accounts (Blogger, Google+, Picasa, YouTube) what they would like to have happen with these accounts in case something happens to them: would they like for the account to be deleted, should a family member or close friend be given access to the account and if so who, and what are the contact details for the people (up to ten) who may be allowed access.

Activating the service doesn't necessarily have to result from something as terminal as death, but rather even through something temporary like memory loss, accident, disease, disability, injury or anything else that may cause us to lose track of our account password, or to become unable to operate it.

These kinds of services have been widely available in the past - but not through the providers themselves, being offered instead through external companies that specialize in digital estate management or digital heritage. A partial list of these can be found in this post. Google is the first online service provider to be offering these services itself.

There's a difference between allowing users to choose and decide for themselves what they plan to do with their digital or virtual assets after they die - a service that until now we've only seen from specialist asset management companies - and the provider's policy determining what happens to users' digital or virtual assets after they die, without their choosing or deciding on it - which is the policy that we've seen up till now (you can find many example in this post. Google is the first trailblazer in this regard.

Google writes about their service

What should happen to your photos, emails and documents when you stop using your account? Google puts you in control.
You might want your data to be shared with a trusted friend or family member, or, you might want your account to be deleted entirely. There are many situations that might prevent you from accessing or using your Google account. Whatever the reason, we give you the option of deciding what happens to your data. 
Using Inactive Account Manager, you can decide if and when your account is treated as inactive, what happens with your data and who is notified.
Google allows users to define for each account what is the time period allowed until this account is defined as inactive: three, six, nine, 12, 15 or 18 months. The timer starts from the last time you logged into the account:

You set a timeout period, after which your account can be treated as inactive. The timeout period starts with your last sign-in to your Google account.

And on the next screen:

Google explains that it measures activity on several parameters: account logins (typing in your username and password), using the Gmail app on your mobile and using location tags (check-ins) on Android.

After the timeout period you've set-up for defining the account as inactive is nearly over, you'll receive a warning by SMS and an email sent to the alterative email address (the same address used to restore your forgotten Google account password), informing you that the account will soon be tagged as inactive, and that your pre-set instructions will take effect. The warning allows you to enter your account and stop the activation in case this is not the "real thing".

Inactive Account Manager will alert you via text message and optionally email before the timeout period ends.

And on the next screen:

If you chose for the account to be deleted, it will be erased completely, including anything you've publicly posted using this account.

If you wish, instruct Google to delete your account on your behalf.

And on the next screen:

Google allows you to define contacts for one of two purposes: to let them know the account has become inactive, or to allow them access to its content. If you chose to allow a person or several people access to your account's content, you'll need to provide Google with both their email address and phone number, so that there's no fear of the information falling into the wrong hands (if a friend or family member's account is hacked, for example).

Add trusted contacts who should be made aware that you are no longer using your account. You can also share data with them if you like.

And on the next screen:

While defining your trusted contacts as such they will not receive a notification message - it's up to the user whether or not to let them know about their new role. Google will only make contact with them whenever the inactive account instructions take effect.

If you chose only to inform them, the email message will look like this:

John Doe ( instructed Google to send you this mail automatically after John stopped using his account.
Sincerely,The Google Accounts Team
If you chose to provide them with access to your account, the email from Google will look like this:
John Doe ( instructed Google to send you this mail automatically after John stopped using his account.
John Doe has given you access to the following account data:
Web Albums 
Download John's data here
Sincerely,The Google Accounts Team
Note that unlike the solutions from digital estate or digital heritage management companies, Google will not give your chosen contacts your account password - or the ability to use it - just the option of downloading the information.

When I was in London in October 2012 at the Digital Death Day unconference, I gave the discussion I initiated the title: What can be done that hasn't yet? And what I suggested was exactly this: transfer the handling of these issues from external companies to the providers themselves.

The solution I suggested was that in the same way that signing up for an online service requires checking a box that confirms that we've read the terms of service, and without which you cannot join, that immediately after that you would have a second mandatory box where you would need to specify what you'd like to happen to this account after you die. And just as we sometimes have to confirm our password or set a new one, that we would periodically need to confirm that decision. The post detailing my unconference experience can be found here.

I'm glad to see Google taking a huge step in this direction and offering an "in house" solution - but the fact that it's optional rather than mandatory makes it good but not very good.

I thank many people who sent me the link to Google's new policy when it was published, and especially Paul Solomon, Head of Communications & Public Affairs in Google (Israel & Greece) , that kindly sent me the link immediately after it was first posted.

Thank you Uri Gonda for translating this post. 

I wrote a separate post with my thoughts regarding this tool. 

Change in Israeli Policy – Before the First Israeli Tragedy Strikes

I had a meeting in ILITA – The Israeli Law, Information and Technology Authority within the Ministry of Justice – in late February 2013, with advocates Amit Ashkenazi, head of the Legal Department, and Nir Garson, head of Technology.

In February 2013, the US Senate approved a measure in Virginia that will make it easier for bereaved parents (or guardians) to obtain access to their children's social network accounts, if they have died while still minors.

The people who "got the ball rolling" in this instance were grieving parents Ricky and Diane Rash, who are longing to find what drove their 15 year old son, Eric, to commit suicide. Facebook, guarding Eric's privacy, refused to divulge the password.

In the meeting, I said: "Let's not wait for the first Israeli tragedy to 'get the ball rolling' within the system. Let's get it rolling already".
  1. Firstly, it seems to be a basic, moderate requirement, to have every Israeli Internet provider publish their policy in case of a user's death. Users deserve to know said provider's policy while they are still living (what if they don't agree with the policy, once they are aware of it?). Family and friends should also be aware of its policy, in case tragedy strikes, and they need to contact the provider to obtain access to the deceased's online material. 
    I continue to circulate the data I have culled from the eight Israeli providers, as specified in the Technical Guide and the Israeli Angle of Digital Death, but it is imperative that this information be widely available, not only through my personal blog. Also, I keep the list updated – for instance, I have approached the Saloona blog service twice regarding their policy in case of a user's death, on 21/1/13 and 12/2/13, but have yet to receive an answer.

    If there will be a regulatory demand for all providers to a) know their own policy and b) publish their policy online, we will already make progress.
  2. Secondly, I believe there should be a default option: just like the terms and conditions checkbox users must tick when joining any online service, another checkbox should be presented, in which the user agrees with the provider's policy in terms of digital legacy (allow or deny access in case anything happens to them, and if so to whom).
  3.  In addition, digital and virtual assets should be included within probate and inheritance laws, and use of digital legacy storage and guardian services should be encouraged, by adding a digital will to the legally valid wills in Israel (currently the only form of will addressed by court is a printed one – court will not address digital wills, even if signed with a trusted digital signature. More on this can be found in the Legal Aspect post).

It was an interesting conversation that included many issues such as digital legacy, the right for privacy, the right for perusal after death and the difference between Israeli and U.S. legislation.

I'll update on any developments.

Thank you Ayelet Yagil for translating this post. 


Google’s Policy - an update

Google’s Policy in case of death of a gmail account user is known and published. There are detailed guidelines, which can be found in the Gmail help tab under ‘Accessing a deceased person’s mail’. (You can also find it here in my blog, under the technical guide). 

In cases of death of a YouTube user, however, Google’s policy used to be published but was later taken offline

If you search for the word Deceased on the YouTube Help tab, the message you get is ‘Your search - deceased - did not match any answers in YouTube Help

A similar message appears when you search on Blogger; the word Deceased simply does not exist.

I turned to Google’s International Spokespeople on 22/7/12, 23/7/12, 4/12/12 and 12/2/13 to ask if there was an all-round policy for all Google products, or does the policy change from one product to another? I also asked why only the gmail users policy was published. So far I have not received a response. 

I then turned to Paul Solomon, director of communications and Spokesmanship for Google Israel and Greece, who responded immediately. Turns out Google does have a single policy, which is relevant to all their products. It appears under their general Help tags, under Accounts. Mr. Solomon also wrote: 
‘Protecting our users' security and privacy is vital, and we're constantly working to earn their trust. That means putting our users first when we receive requests for their personal information, even when it's from a grieving family. It's important for our users to know that, even after they've passed away, we'll keep their information secure and respect their reasonable privacy interests. We won't provide the private information stored in a deceased user's Google Account to family members unless a U.S. court order compels us to do so.  …  I should also say that we’re continuing to explore solutions to this very difficult issue. ‘
I pointed out to him that the manner in which this policy is published could be misleading. A person searching for the word deceased under Gmail-Help can immediately see that Google has a policy on this matter, however if the same person searches on YouTube and his search yields nothing, such a person will most likely assume that Google does not have a policy for YouTube. He/she is very unlikely to assume that there is a policy, but it is stated elsewhere. I find it hard to believe that any surfer will understand that they should keep searching for the word again, only under a different help tab, and that the response that appears there will be valid for YouTube users. This is particularly not obvious if the person searching is in mourning and/or is not too familiar with searching the internet.
Mr. Solomon promised me he would forward my suggestion that Google’s policy would be included in the Help tab of each and every Google Product, to the relevant parties at Google international.

I will continue to update on this.

Thank you Perla Mitrani - Aviram for translating this post.