Digital heritage regulations in Switzerland
In Switzerland, most people use the World Wide Web(www) on a daily basis. Ordering, banking, reading the news and communicating are the most common actions on the Internet. After the death or incapacity of someone close to them, their surviving dependents increasingly have to deal with their digital inheritance. Similarly, in Switzerland, it is becoming apparent that it can be a challenge to track down and gain access to a deceased person’s data on the web. For this reason, we should start thinking about our digital estate while we are still alive. After all, most people want emotional items as well as assets to be preserved.
Determine early on what you want to happen to your data. This will make it easier for loved ones or proxies to execute your will.
The first thought you should establish is:
- should the data be preserved,
- should the data be deleted,
- should the data be transferred or
- should the data be archived.
Also think about business partners or friends with whom you have shared data.
The Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC) writes the following:
“According to Swiss inheritance law, an inheritance is transferred as a whole to the heirs (principle of universal succession according to Art. 560 para. 1 of the Swiss Civil Code). Digital data stored on a local data carrier or terminal falls into the inheritance estate together with all other inheritable assets.”
This means that in Switzerland, too, the heir assumes all rights and obligations arising from contracts and subscriptions, for example.
It is unclear how to deal with data that is “only” stored on the Internet. In principle, it is usually not a matter of assets “but rather of personal rights, which do not pass to the heirs (Art. 31 para. 1 ZGB). The relatives have only limited options for action, invoking the protection of souvenirs.” As the FDPIC further writes, a stipulation in a legally binding will is necessary (Art. 505 or 498 CC).
Furthermore, the FDPIC suggests that we choose a “trusted person as digital executor of the will, who knows the place of safekeeping. A practical and secure option is a password-protected USB stick, the password of which is known only by ourselves and the trusted person who has been initiated.”
The FPSD also points out that “if a user has published something, copyright law may have to be observed”. Copyright covers works in the sense of intellectual creations with an individual character. Literary texts, pictures, photographs, films as well as videos can be protected by copyright”.
Here, the relatives should first sift through the data before you have data deleted.
A tip at the end. Do not delete or cancel contracts prematurely. This includes mobile phone contracts and provider contracts of all kinds.
The bottom line remains the same. We must take digital precautions
so that our data does not simply “disappear” or remain unintentionally forever.