Manipulating Pod data after death (digital legacy)

Hi everyone,

I’m going to preface this by saying that I don’t consider myself to have particularly strong technical knowledge, and my understanding of Solid is shaky at best. Please correct me if I have fundamentally misunderstood anything.

I am wondering if there has been any work or discussions around how Solid might be used to plan for what happens to our data after we die (or are incapacitated by illness). It seems to me that Solid allows for substantially improved control over our digital legacy.

For example, say I have a personal Pod that contains my social media data, my photographs, my most private secrets, and all of the documents and data that detail my financial assets. When I die, I wish for explicit actions to be taken for each of these contents. For example, let’s say I want:

  • My most private secrets to be deleted immediately
  • My photographs to be shared with my loved ones
  • My financial documents to be shared with the executor of my will but nobody else
  • My social media to be memorialised, and then all the posts deleted after 1 year

Unlike the current system, in which my data is spread around the world and stored with various companies who each have different policies around ownership of data and so on, with Solid I could potentially define clear instructions for these kinds of actions and be reasonably confident that they are carried out. Obviously the exact mechanisms could vary, but there would be some kind of trigger upon my death (let’s say it’s a dead man’s switch for now), after which a trusted piece of software that I have configured according to my wishes carries out these instructions on my behalf.

So before I sink any more time into this, I am wondering whether this is a realistic use case for Solid, and if so, whether there any existing projects around this kind of thing?

Cheers,
Jack

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Hello JCH,

I believe this is indeed a realistic use case. I wrote an abstract to explain how this might work. Here’s the dropbox link. https://www.dropbox.com/s/of4i3u6r0odsp4e/3DC-SAM%20Abstract.pdf?dl=0

I hope I’m not violating forum rules. I say this because I responded to your post on 5/12 by posting the above link and it just disappeared. I had posted it on 5/11 (in the thread which gave rise to the concept), and that post and link disappeared too! I carefully read the forum rules and don’t see any violation. I’m posting the dropbox link again because the PDF concept is on point with your question. Hope this helps clear up Solid’s potential use case.

Hi Hans,

Thank you for both of your responses.

I will admit, when I read your first message, I was a little lost for words. Having now read and reread your pdf, I am still a little unsure of what to say or how to respond. I am not responsible for the removal of your first response, but if I had to guess, I would say that it is because of the rather satirical tone.

The pdf you have linked is clearly the work of a lot of time and energy, so thank you for sharing it. I have downloaded it in case it goes missing again. The first time you posted it, I skimmed it, was unsure of how to take it or respond, so I did nothing. It then disappeared, so I considered the matter resolved. Now, you have taken the time to return to my thread and posted it again, so this time I have read more closely and will do you the courtesy of responding.

Some elements of your abstract seem to me to be realistic and a helpful imagining of a decentralised data future. You propose visualising data inputs and outputs in a way that is understandable to humans. I am all for that. You talk about the motion of a person (represented by their POD) through cyberspace, connecting with others, connecting with organisations and so on, and a need for awareness of what is going where in order to be fully in control. A mirror to reflect our data selves back at us. Cool.

Unfortunately, there is a point in your abstract where it becomes rather, well, abstract. Here, what you are discussing forks into one of the following:

  • Concepts too mindblowing for my moderate intellect
  • Satire that I don’t get
  • Craziness

At this point, you are talking about femtoseconds, the human soul, natural electromagnetic radiation and the quantum mind. I am a simple man, and this is beyond me.

My question, to which I can see what you’re talking about totally does apply in a kind of data identity way, is much more of a Solid For Dummies question. I am saying “hey, just heard about Solid, have I understood this correctly?”. Your answer is like “yeah, but what about human consciousness?”. You say that what you wrote explains how my concept might work, but my suggestion is a very specific application that does not seem to arise in your pdf. And that’s why I struggled to respond to this.

Anyway, all of this is to say thank you for your consideration and response, it was an interesting read.

All the best and stay safe,
Jack

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Apparently the forum butterfly net wasn’t quick enough to catch “Hans Croteau” this time.

I thought your post about digital legacy described a perfect use case for Solid. I’m not an expert but I think there are still some necessary pieces missing for that use case, namely encrypted storage, version control, some kind of data redundancy, maybe digital id’s, data interoperability, and maybe others.

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Like @tag42git (below), I too believe it’s a perfect use case. You asked about a “trusted a piece of software” and some kind of trigger to carry out your wishes after your death regarding your private data and finances. @tag42git (below) appears to agree that “trust” is the central issue by focussing on encryption, control, redundancy, IDs, and after all that is added, then would that POD still be interoperable, etc.

I suggested three interoperable concepts. 1) A POD with extra security (and trusted associated virtual assistant), 2) A refernce point in a cybersphere where all such PODS connect to each other first, and 3) Rules for that cybersphere (rendered by its users by popular vote). All three abstract concepts are centered around both trust and law (hence, Magna Carta for the web). Indeed, probate of finances, secrets, and social posts/pages is a matter of law and involves trust of an estate’s executor.

Thank you for noticing that the concept of reflecting our “data selves” is cool and simple. This is indeed the overarching “no-brainer” concept. The part of my concept that appears to be crazy satire was not intended to be either. It’s an attempt to predict what virtual assistants might feasibly do in the future. I don’t believe it was craziness or satire to ask how virtual assistants without a “soul” could be trusted. I considered how that question might be resolvable, despite involving the elusive concept of a soul in terms of ethics. Obviously, there is no scientific explanation of what a soul is, but conceptualizing what a soul might be is not pseudo science either. I don’t think its outrageous to link a soul with ethical behavior, and hence, a “trust earner”.

So ultimately, you are correct Jack. It’s not all of my PDF that directly applies to the use case you suggested, just the three linked concepts which pivot on the issue of what a “trusted piece of software” might be, both in the short term (practice) and in the long term future (theory). I admit I did not write it in response to the use case you suggested. I did not mean to imply that it had been. I also did not mean to imply that you caused my PDF to disappear. That’s why I said I reviewed the forum rules and saw no violation, so I was at a loss to understand because no admins had explained it had been interpreted as satire until @tag42git (below) clarified.

@HansCroteau I think you are a fraud and your only purpose here is to mislead and abuse people.

Technically this should all be possible, but I don’t know of any project into this direction yet.
From my perspective it seems, that the there are three core elements of this:

  1. a reliable trigger
  2. a trustworthy executor
  3. configurations for the actions

To give the executor permissions, you could either log in with this piece of software and let it use your webId (you probably would have to refresh the tokens every few weeks/months or they will expire). Or the software has its own webId and you grant this webId permissions to control your files. Currently that’s only possible on a file/folder basis with ACL files, so latter approach could be a lot of work to keep it up to date. So letting the software impersonate you is likely easier.

To define the actions, the user could create a config file in their pod which describes what exactly should happen and where to find stuff. You could manually select files/folders and what should happen with them, but I think “shapes” would be more suitable (though I’m not very familiar with this concept and don’t know at which stage it currently is. here’s a blog post on that). Deleting, Sharing and Modifying should be no problem to do. The 1 year trigger likely requires an additional external trigger (ie the trusted executor software).

As a trigger, you could specify some trusted persons which can invoke the app (e.g. by requiring 2/4 of my trusted persons need to verify), use a 1-month timeout, etc. Whatever you think is best.

Keep in mind that with the approaches I’ve highlighted above, the executor app could already do all of this prior to death and any security issue in it could give anyone access to your pod. So imo you should think of a way to give access only directly after death (maybe by letting your trusted persons give the software permissions after your death).

I hope that these thoughts help you
Have a nice day :))

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Thank you, this is very helpful and precisely the sort of response I was hoping for. I certainly have a lot to learn, but I knew that already.

The trigger is a problem that exists in any version of software based on this premise, so not specific to Solid and we have approximately the same range of options. For the other two elements that you point out, you have given me a good place to start.

Thanks again to all of you for your respective contributions!

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Great conversations here, thank you for all the contributions.

Just a quick reminder to check out the Solid code of conduct on https://github.com/solid/process/blob/master/code-of-conduct.md