Cardinal & Gray Society: Digital Assets Webinar

Cardinal & Gray Society: Digital Assets Webinar


Hi, I’m Whitney Espich, the
CEO of MIT Alumni Association, and I hope you enjoy this
digital production created for alumni and friends like you. Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Nancye Mims. I’m an associate director in
the class programs team at MIT in the Alumni Association. We’re pleased to bring you this
live webinar this afternoon. We’re broadcasting live from
the MIT Alumni Association. We’re here today
with Mark Silis. He is a member of the class
of 1996, a Course 6 major. He is currently Associate
Vice President of IS&T. We’ve also got Joe Xu, director
of web-based services at MIT, and we’re also joined
by Mark Jacobs, director of technical services at
the MIT Alumni Association. He’s there with Joe. I’m also pleased to welcome
my colleague, Erin Hollis. She is associate director
and alumni outreach in the MIT Alumni Association. Erin manages the Faculty
Forum Online programming, and is here today with her
hand firmly on the rudder. All right, so before
we get started, I want to remind you that
your questions are welcome, but we will answer
them at the end. If you’re joining us via Zoom,
please use the Q&A feature found on your toolbar. For all others
listening on YouTube, you may add your questions
to the comments field. We will get as many
questions in as we can. Also note that
today’s weather will be posted on the Cardinal & Gray
website, as well as the slides. So let’s begin to talk
about digital assets. Mark, let’s start with you. Thank you very much. And let’s see if I can
get my slides up there. Well, appreciate the opportunity
to talk with everyone today a little bit about what’s
a very evolving field, as it turns out. So we’re talking
about digital assets. And I think first and foremost,
what’s a digital asset? Well, let’s first be honest. There is no formal
legal definition at this time of what
a digital asset is. If you ask Wikipedia, they’ll
tell you it’s anything that exists in a binary format
and comes with a right to use. Data that do not
possess that right are not considered
technically assets. But I think more generally when
we talk about digital assets, we’re really thinking
about anything that’s stored online in a
binary format, any kind of online account
owned by an individual, text messages, things
of that nature, photos you upload to
Flickr, pretty much anything that you’ve provided
from yourself into the digital domain. This is an evolving
area, so there may be an evolving definition
of this digital asset concept. But I think for the purposes
of our conversation today, this is probably, I think,
a good starting point. So first and foremost, what
happens to digital assets after you are gone? Well, that’s a
really good question. And I think it varies
widely depending on where those digital
assets are stored. Just touching on it
briefly, Gmail, for example, if you don’t use
your Gmail account after a period of nine months,
if you’ve read your Google Mail terms of use. How many people have read
the actual 50-page document with the super tiny prints? You’ll actually see
that after nine months, Google has the right to
deactivate or terminate your account. And so if you did
nothing, that’s actually what would happen
today to your Gmail account. Facebook is actually
very different. If you took no action,
your Facebook account would probably continue
to exist into perpetuity. But they also have
started to think about the lifecycle management
of a Facebook account, and they’ve started
to provisions so that in the eventual
someone’s passing, they have a mechanism for
memorializing someone’s Facebook account, which would
allow them to either terminate the Facebook account, or they
could go forward and have it frozen and still available
on the Facebook platform as an ongoing memorial to the
form of Facebook’s subscribers. LinkedIn, totally different. They have a process by which
you can submit a request to have an account
deactivated or removed if the person is no
longer available. They don’t really have
that process well-defined. They simply provide
an email address via which you can contact them. And I think they try to address
those requests as best as they can. MIT EFL, which Joe
Xu and Mark Jacobs will touch on a little
bit later has a process where the count remains
active for about 90 days after notification of death. And we will talk a little bit
more about EFL a little bit later. So I’ll leave that to them. So this is a real problem, OK? So all these digital platforms– Facebook, Twitter,
Myspace, for those people who want to go way back, these
are all kind of new things, and all these people
jumped on board. I don’t think they ever thought
about lifecycle management when they were building
these platforms, so this is a
relatively new concept. And just taking Facebook
alone, what you see here are two graphs that show the
living Facebook subscribers, and unfortunately those
who are no longer with us. And there’s two scenarios. The top graph
shows what Facebook would look like if Facebook has
declined in usage over time. But at some point in the
not too distant future, the number of folks who are
no longer with us on Facebook will exceed the actual
number of living subscribers. What you see on the
bottom is probably a more reasonable
graph, which assumes that Facebook will
continue to grow to some level of
global saturation. And there will still be a point
where the number of subscribers who are deceased is going
to exceed the living population of Facebook. And that’s obviously going
to happen much further down the line, but
this is a real problem. And this is something that I’d
say all the digital companies are thinking about how
to handle what to do, and it’s a very
evolving landscape. So I think we’re very
early days, I’d say, in the digital domain, trying
to tackle these things. So we’ll try to touch on
a little bit about what’s going on today, but
this is something I think everybody should
continue to monitor, because I think
we’ll continue to see a wide variety of rapid
developments in the years ahead. So current landscape,
just talking about it from digital assets
and estate planning, first and foremost, a
disclaimer, I am not a lawyer. So this is advice and guidance
I gathered in preparation for this discussion
by talking to folks who are lawyers,
documents that are available online and
other discussions. But first and foremost, for full
legal advice for yourselves, you should always
consult your attorney. But most current estate
planning that folks do does not consider digital assets
as part of the discussion. These are relatively
new things and I think things are catching up
to the times in the legal area, but this is
relatively early days. Most of the laws are really
focused on physical property, fiscal matters. But again, digital assets,
it’s very early days. There isn’t
recognition, I’d say, across the legal landscape,
certainly the United States, that this is an area that
needs better definition. And so the Uniform
Law commission, which is an association of
attorneys across the United States and its territories
try to work together to try and better
define this area, because it’s an area that just
needs some better definition. And they introduced the
Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets
Act, or we’re just going to call it
the UFADAA, in 2014 to try and bridge the gap
between the traditional assets and some of the assets
in the digital domain. The actual act was
amended in 2015. And as of today,
almost 40 states have passed some version
of the UFADAA law. Just to be clear, for
those who may not know, most law, with respect
to estate planning, is done at the state level. There’s not a strong amount
of federal law in this area, so it’s generally handled
on a state level basis. And so that’s why this is
particularly important. But the law particularly extends
the judicial power of fiduciary to manage the tangible
property, and extends that to the realm of
the digital assets. So hopefully trying to provide
clarity and provide better positioning for trying to tackle
some of these questions that have come up, and put
everyone in a better place to try and address
them going forward. While it allows you to
manage computer files and what we think of as
more traditional assets, it does not allow access to
emails or any online accounts, regardless of how
it’s specified. You really need to
spell those things out in specific legal terms
if those are things you want folks to have access to. They need to be
spelled out explicitly. And that’s something, obviously,
that may continue to evolve, but that’s the state
of things today. And more importantly,
I think the– again, you touched on
those terms of services earlier, those things you
click through whenever you sign up for the accounts. I think very few of us
have probably read them in agonizing detail,
but they do often have their own terms
of service and use. And most of those companies
are based in California, where the law may not be so clear. So what you see here is
the UFADAA landscape today, looking at the United States. So you see approximately
the 40 states who have passed something
or enacted something into legislation. And you see in green
the states that are actually actively
considering something this year. And you’ll notice
states in white haven’t quite done anything yet. That includes our fine
state here of Massachusetts and the state of California. State of California is
particularly interesting, because for most of
the internet service providers, your Facebooks,
your Googles, and things of that nature, they
exist in California. And often in those
terms of use agreements, it says that any
disputes, you agree when you click through
them to have them resolved in the state of California. So that, I think, is important
and something to consider. But again, these are
well-untested issues as of yet legally. Not a ton of court rulings. But again, it’s early days. So just touching on some of
the current legal activities in the area, there’s a
wide variety of, I think, cases you could find out there. I just picked up on one that’s
particularly salient to us here in Massachusetts. It went all the way up to the
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and basically said, yes,
someone’s digital assets– in this case, email– is an asset and can be
managed by the estate. And so now the difficulty became
now that we’ve had this ruling, it’s very important
and that’s good, but the interesting part is,
how do you actually enact that? That’s a whole
different problem. Actually, they’ve
sent it back to lower courts to really figure out,
how do we reconcile this ruling where they need
to provide access to the estate with the actual
Yahoo terms of service? And one of the
issues, if you read any of the terms of
service, it actually tells you in the
terms of service that someone who is not
you using your account with your username
and your credentials is a violation of the terms of
service, which is completely potentially in conflict with
the ruling of the court, the way they made it. So this could potentially be
headed for further litigation and discussion. It probably may eventually
have to see the courts in the state of California where
Yahoo maintains their business presence, because these
are undefined areas in both Massachusetts
and in California. The real point being is just
these are very early days, I think, in particular with
the digital assets realm. And I think as
time goes on, there will be rulings that
establish precedent, and we will get
greater clarity, and I think the legislation
will get stronger and more specific to help
make those things happen. I think the other thing
on a technical side is they can tell us that
we have to provide access to these assets. I think a lot of these platforms
don’t have a way of doing that. Facebook and Google are some
of the more progressive ones of trying to get
ahead of that curve. A lot of platforms don’t
have any kind of mechanism for doing that for folks. And I think those things will
continue to evolve and get better, but it is something that
today, even if someone said, hey, give everyone
my email, I don’t know if the actual service
provider has a good way to do that. So just best practices
for where we are today. I think first and foremost,
the best thing you can do is keep a list of all
your digital accounts– your Facebook, your Google, your
Amazon, your Twitter, your MIT EFL, anything in the digital
domain, banking account, anything you can think of. Just keeping a really
good list of those things so that in the event that
someone needs to figure out how to tackle that problem,
they have a good list of how to handle that. Another thing, you
may want to consider using a password management
platform, such as LastPass, Dashlane, 1Password. I don’t know how many folks
have heard of these things, but I’ll touch on
a little bit later. But they really give you
a way to, in one location, manage all your passwords for
pretty much all your online accounts. And if you have to
provide those to somebody else at some point
in the future, it gives them one place
where you can provide them pretty much full access to all
your digital identities in one location with one password
that you can provide them. As I said earlier, using
someone else’s credentials to access their
account, at least today to the letter of the
rules of the terms of use or the terms of service
of many of these forms, is a violation of
their terms of use. I don’t think anyone has seen
that particularly enforced, so I want to be fair about that. But I do think to the
letter of the rules is the letter of the law that
is a violation of the terms of use, at least today. So please keep that in mind. Please be careful,
I think, in anything you do, with respect to estate
planning and digital assets, and particular with credentials,
or passwords, or usernames, or anything else you
would not want shared. If you make it part of some
of the formal documents, those things may
be required to be filed in court, or
with financial entities or otherwise as part of
your estate management. And so just think carefully
about what you put into which documents, because some of those
may need to be shared publicly. And so do take some
action when doing that. For some of the
platforms that do allow you to name
a designate, you may want to think
about doing that. So if you’re a user of
the Facebook platform, they do have the concept
of a legacy contact, which would allow you to
identify somebody who can manage your Facebook
account after you are gone. And Google has the
inactive account concept, which would allow you to have
someone who is identified to take responsibility
for your account after a prescribed period of
inactivity on your behalf. Those are things to think about. And again, I think the platforms
will continue to evolve, so those are things you
should continue to monitor. And you should
explicitly identify, I think, to the best
of your abilities, what you want to have happen
with your digital assets. If you want someone
to have access, if you want someone to be able
to simply close the account, I think whatever you
would like to have happen, you should be as
clear as possible, and that will certainly
make the situation, I think, easier for
you down the road. And I think finally,
just continue to monitor the situation and
consult with your attorney. I think this is an area that’s
still continuing to evolve, and we’ll continue to see
a variety of developments. I think it’s changed. If you just go back online,
you Google and search for digital assets
and estate planning, it’s changed tremendously
just in the last few years. And I think we’ll continue
to see that over time. So continue to
monitor the situation. And definitely consult
with your attorney if you need formal legal
advice in that area. So I just touched a little
bit about these features for the platforms
that do offer them. With Facebook’s
memorializing function, you can appoint a
contact or legacy contact, as they call it. And this is somebody who
will have the ability to write a final post
to your Facebook page. They can update your
profile picture. They can respond to
new friend requests. It might be from
new family members who want to take part in what
the celebration of your life was. And they can request
your account be removed, if that is so determined. What they can’t do is thay
can’t log in to your account. They can’t remove or change
anything that you ever posted. They can’t read any of your
private Facebook messages. And they can’t remove
any of your friends or make new friend requests
on your account’s behalf to other parties. And there’s additional
details available about that on Facebook’s help site
and discussion forums. But for those who
use Facebook and want to pass on some of that
family history experiences of your life, this is
certainly something you should consider
taking a look at. The Google Inactive
Account Manager, it’s a little bit of
a different concept. I’d say Google is much further
ahead of the curve on this one. They probably have a lot
more functionality here. But basically, the Google
Inactive Account Manager allows you to designate
someone by email address who will be contacted in the
event that your account ceases to be active. And when I mean
ceases to be active, you can pretty much
determine what that is. You can pick anywhere
as low as three months and anywhere as
high as 18 months. And in the event that
that period of time goes by where you have not
used your Google account– and the way they measure that is
you haven’t logged into Gmail, you haven’t logged into
the Google Play Store, your Android phone
hasn’t checked in, things of that
nature, they probably have a wider variety of
determining what active use is. They probably don’t tell us what
all those methods are either. But basically once
they’ve determined your account is
no longer in use, they will reach out to this
person with an automated message. And if that period
goes by, they will then have access to your account. The nice thing about the Google
feature is you can actually specify for each platform in
the Google suite of platforms, whether it’s Gmail, or
whether it’s YouTube, or whether it’s any
of these, Google+, you can specify exactly which
things you want them to have access to in the event
that this happens. You can also choose to have your
account automatically deleted. So in the event that your
account goes inactive, say you don’t want anyone
to have access, you can also just choose that your account
be deleted automatically, which would happen three
months after it goes inactive. So those are things,
at least if you’re a user of the Google
platform, certainly something to take a look at. And finally, I touched
on LastPass a little bit. LastPass is one of a set
of password managers. Password managers are basically
plugins that you install into your web
browser, whether it’s Chrome, or Firefox,
or Internet Explorer, or anything of that
nature, Safari, and it pretty much allows you
to manage all your passwords in one place. It secures all of your passwords
for all your different accounts on all your different platforms. So it manages your username,
manages your password. And you only have to remember
your master password in order to access any of
your other accounts. And you can also secure it
with two factor authentication for those who want advanced
security, because it is a one-stop shop to also
exploit all your accounts. So I think you should exercise
due caution with that. It allows you to easily have
all your digital accounts and identification
in one location. And it makes passing on that
information to the estate, or to your next akin, or
to whatever party you come to a very simplified process. So it’s not only good
security practice, but I think from a
management standpoint, it can put you in a
really good position for trying to tackle
these digital assets and passing those
on going forward. So that’s what I
had to talk about. I think at this
point, I’m turning it over to my colleague,
Joe Xu, and his team. And they will talk a
little bit about EFL now. Joe, just one second
before you start. I just wondered if anyone
does have any questions on Mark’s material. And I actually have
a question, Mark, I’d like to ask you about. We all store a lot of
photos these days online, on our computers, in the cloud. Any thoughts about that, how
we should prepare our families to be able to access all of
that really important data? So there’s a couple
of ways you can do it. I think it depends
on the platform, because the features
are different. One thing I’ll say, if you
take the example iCloud, if you’re a iPhone
user or Google Photos if you’re a Google user, one
of the nice things they have the ability to do is allow
you to share your photos with people in advance. So say, for example, I was just
at a family wedding in Mexico. And I took a tremendous
number of photos and videos. And just going within
the Apple iPhotos app, I was able to create an album
to share it with my family, so they have full
access to that today. So you can do that,
I think, at any time. A lot of these platforms
have sharing functions. I think the other
hand, in the event that they would need
access to the platforms after, I think providing the
credentials for them to do that or specifically enumerating
in your will or such how you want those things
handled are probably the best things you can do. And I think for something
like Google, as we touched on, they have a function for
lifecycle management. So those photos would
be easily passed on to whoever you designate. I think Apple is a
little bit further behind in terms of that
function, but I expect you would see some similar
functionality from them, no doubt, in the future. OK, great. Well, thank you. Thank you very much. Joe, would you like
to help us about EFL? Sure. OK, thank you. Let me share my screen. Not yet. There we go. There we go. OK. So hi, everyone. This is Joe Xu. And I am the director for
the web-based services here at Alumni Association. So EFL, what is EFL? EFL is the Email
Forwarding for Life. It’s a service for MIT alumni to
stay in touch with your family, friends, and colleagues. EFL is in the form of– in my case, it should
be [email protected] But you can pick any
username you want, as long as that username has
not been picked by someone else. So that’s the form of EFL. And then the next one. EFL is not a real email account. So a lot of people got
confused about that. So we don’t save email
messages on our service. We are just a middlemen. We pass the emails to
your real Gmail account, Yahoo account, those
kinds of things. So emails sent to
your EFL address will be forwarded along to
any email address, up to five. You can have up to
five for the address, and you can set it up
in Infinite Connection. So the next one is EFL is
also your login username for Infinite Connection. So if you go to alum.mit.edu– can you see this screen? If you go to the
website, you will see there’s a login button there. And then you can log in there. And then there is
My Account, and you can specify your forwarding
address in My Account. So try to go to there if
you haven’t done so yet. So this is EFL. Now, the next question. Who is eligible for EFL? EFL is exclusively
for MIT alumni. And then you may ask,
what is MIT alumni? So surprisingly, it’s
not that clear cut. So the definition of MIT
alumni is a person who has received a degree from MIT. So that one, I don’t think
we have any problems. The next one is a
person who has been registered as student in a
degree-granting program at MIT. So basically, you are
admitted by MIT as a student, and then you have to at
least finish one term if you are an undergraduate. But if you are a
graduate student, you have to finish
at least two terms. So if you finish two terms
as a graduate student, then you will be granted
the alumni status. So this is the
definition of MIT alumni. And then the next one is the
postdocs, associate members, joint programs,
spouses, friends, they are not eligible for EFL. EFL after death. So EFL will remain
active for 90 days after we received
death notification. What does that mean? Sometimes, a spouse will
call us saying, hey, an alumni passed away. Or sometimes we will get the
notification from a friend. And then what we
do is we are going to talk to the obituary
to make sure, to confirm the death of an alumni. And then the process
will start that we will send out a deactivation
notification to the EFL address. So a family member, a
son or daughter, a spouse might be able to
pick that up and take care of the EFL accounts. And then after 90 days, the EFL
account will be deactivated, and it will no longer
forward email messages. So three months, 90 days. And then when EFL
is deactivated, the Infinite Connection, the
website I just showed you guys, alum.mit.edu, that website
login is also disabled. So you have 90 days after we
receive the death notification. So sometimes if we
get it the next day, then it will start the next day. And sometimes we get
the death notification after three months. And then it will start
after three months. So that’s the 90-day
period after we receive the death notification. So I think that’s all
I have for the EFL. And if you have more questions
on the digital assets, there are a few URLs that you
can use to get more of it. And the last one is for the EFL. Nancye, back to you. Well, thank you both very much. So far, we have not received any
questions from the listeners. We’ll be on the line
for another few minutes. If anyone has a question,
please submit them now. And I guess I’m
wondering if there’s anything else that
either of you would like to address at this
time, anything that you think we may have
forgotten to touch on. OK, so I just got one question
about why is EFL only 90 days. OK. So I think the policy that
we put in place so far works very well. And we have all the
positive feedbacks from son, daughters,
and wives, husbands. So we don’t see any
problem with those 90 days. I think the key
here is that when you handle those
digital assets, EFL, you have to
communicate effectively to your relatives, your son
and daughters, wives, husbands. So let them know the policy and
let them know your password. And also, as Mark says, maybe
handle all those passwords in a central repository, right? LastPass. And that way, the process
will be very smooth. Let me also just jump
in here with something. If you’re an alumni
and you think your spouse would
want to continue to be involved with
MIT after your death, then please make sure that
we have your spouse’s email. We do have a very active
surviving spouse’s group. It’s called the
Emma Rogers Society. And it’s great for us if we
do have contact information. OK, well, that concludes
the program for today. As I did say, this was
recorded on YouTube. It also will be up on the
Cardinal & Gray Society website. It’ll probably also be up on
the Emma Rogers Society website. So I want to thank all the
panelists, and everyone here from MIT, and all of
the 60 plus individuals who joined us today
for this webinar. Thank you so much. Thanks for joining us. And for more information on how
to connect with the MIT Alumni Association, please
visit our website.

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