There is no pan-European legislation dealing with this problem yet. The draft of the European Data Protection Directive does not mention deceased's data in any context, she said. Since the legislation is so fragmented in the E.U., it would be a real improvement if post-mortem privacy protection were to be introduced in the proposed regulation to enable the same level of protection for Europeans' digital data, she said.
Data protection laws aren't the only ones that can be used to protect personal data after death: copyright law can also play a role, said Damien McCallig, a PhD candidate in the School of Law at the National University of Ireland, Galway.
"Copyright offers post mortem protection," he said, but that protection eventually expires.
Current copyright laws actually promotes publication and reuse, according to McCallig. Eventually the deceased's emails, private journals or blogs, and private and direct messages on social media will be copyright free and in the possession of service providers such as Google, Yahoo, Twitter and Facebook if they still exist in the future, he said.
"Maybe you should have a time limit that automatically deletes data after a certain time," he said, adding that at the moment there is no comprehensive legal solution to regulate what should happen to someone's online data after he dies.
While copyright might offer some protection and can function as a surrogate regulation of digital remains, further research is needed to come up with a regulatory regime for online life after death, said McCallig.
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