to lawfully access one’s online accounts. And even for Oklahomans, to
bequeath your Flickr password to your next of kin, for example, is technically illegal—as it violates Yahoo’s terms of service contract. Though
criminal, it is currently the only way to preserve your online photo
albums after death. Across the pond, Europe’s highest courts are currently hearing important cases regarding le droit à l’oubli—or the “right
of oblivion”—that will decide the extent to which individuals determine
the fate of their online identities. More broadly, the legislation will help
the world determine what it means to “be online” and whether one can
ever leave the Internet once one steps foot inside.
Our “Internet culture” will earn its name only when users and developers (and lawyers, philosophers, theologians) come together to ask
these questions. Culture can’t escape online without expecting death to
follow. The degree to which the off- and online worlds still remain to
be integrated is evident in the cultural richness of one of these realms
and the superficiality of the other. Meanwhile, until death is allowed to
exist naturally online, the Internet will grow more plagued by the problem of our mortality, making it richer, stranger and more complex. The
Internet will become more like real life and lose much of its allure.