Bitmark + IFTTT: How to take ownership of your digital life and plan your estate.

What would happen to your personal data and digital assets if something happened to you?

The process of preparing for the transfer of assets after death is known as estate planning. Estate, a common law term, means an individual’s property, entitlements, and obligations. In modern society, legal systems have elegant solutions for handling the assets that we accumulate and create in the physical world. But increasingly the stuff we create and value most exists only in our digital lives, where there’s no system for individual ownership. In the digital environment estate planning is a minefield.

Individual humans create value by living their lives online — producing works of art, sharing ideas and opinions, uploading personal financial and health information, or buying and storing things like music and movies.

But we don’t own our stuff on the internet. We give it away for free, and, in the process, we’re losing our ability to plan for our future.

The Bitmark mission is to empower universal digital ownership, and we’re making simple tools that help you gain freedom and control of your most valuable data within the digital environment. If we could own our digital lives just like we own everything we buy and build in the physical world, wouldn’t this add to our wealth and freedom? We think so. To make digital estate planning more accessible and automated for everyone, Bitmark has partnered with IFTTT, an IoT service that gives users greater control of their personal data across a wide variety of apps and online services.

“We’re excited to have Bitmark as a partner. They’re a unique service, and doing something incredibly ambitious. Applets will help reach a broader audience that’s just beginning to think about digital data ownership and attribution.”
—Linden Tibbets, CEO of IFTTT

Start your digital estate in 5 minutes.

To get you going, we have an initial set of IFTTT Applets that interface with the digital environments where you create and share things: social media, fitness and health apps, productivity and financial software, and much more:

Bitmark IFTTT Applets

These Applets apply a mark of accepted ownership to your data and embed it into Bitmark’s standardized, universal digital property system. It’s an automated process that transforms your data into an asset that you own and pass down to loved ones.

We recommend you experiment with a few of these Applets first, and then decide which data and assets are most valuable to you. (If you’re lacking ideas, we published a blog post earlier this summer about what two of our Bitmark team members would choose.)

Here is how this process will look:

Step 1: Turn on some Applets and authorize IFTTT.

Once IFTTT is authorized, it automatically bitmarks your new property via the connected Applets. You can view your property in Bitmark’s app, where you can also issue new bitmarks for any other document type on your computer or phone:

Step 2: Check out your digital properties.

Next steps: Grant access to your estate (coming soon).

When property ownership is clear, the access and management rights to your estate, (known as fiduciary duty) is more easily worked out. These details will depend on local regulation, in the same manner as the things we own in the physical world.

Usually it requires a long, expensive, legal process for your loved ones to access your accounts — your emails, cloud storage, and digital data that’s in your name. Not to mention that, in many cases (read Twitter’s deceased user article, or Wiki article about Death and the Internet), your loved ones will never be allowed access to your accounts, and if they try, it will be a criminal offense. Ouch.

Bitmark for digital estate planning has two goals: 1) provide individuals with a structured, secure system for assigning ownership to your digital assets and data; 2) pave the way to a more free and fair legal framework for our digital lives and valuables.

Think of what we are providing today as a basic first step. Bitmark’s tools provide a framework and infrastructure to begin organizing and protecting your digital property. In the future we will add more options that make it easier to assign access to your digital estate with your lawyer, spouse, and loved ones.

“Bitmark’s work with IFTTT confirms and tracks ownership of online data, which is a significant step towards intentional management of any digital estate and future planning for incapacity and death.”
 — Megan L. Yip, Attorney, Estate planning and digital assets

Bitmark is empowering the individual to take back ownership.

Bitmark is the property system for the digital environment. As a system to manage digital property, Bitmark makes it possible to own and transfer title to anyone. For individuals, ownership is power. By establishing ownership to your data, you can in turn derive value from your digital property just as you do from the things you own in the physical world: selling, buying, transferring, donating, licensing, passing down, protecting, and much more.

This tool for digital estate planning is just one piece of our larger mission to empower universal digital ownership so we can live free online. Digital property will level the playing field for who can achieve success online — creating new avenues for wealth, prosperity, and achievement on the Internet that are not currently possible for the vast majority of people.

Read our “Defining Property in the Digital Realm: parts one, two, and three for a more in-depth context to this post.

If you would like to stay posted on future applications of Bitmark and how we are transforming the Internet into a new system built on individual freedom and empowerment, subscribe to our newsletter.

By Bitmark Inc. on July 18, 2017.

What’s in a property title?

Best practices for safely bitmarking your data & organizing your digital assets.

When I talk to people about Bitmark there is confusion about digital property. I think most of this confusion boils down to what exactly is in a property title (or in the digital realm, a “bitmark”), and what is in the asset itself.

A title is a public ownership claim over an asset. The asset itself can be made public or kept private — that’s totally up to the owner. Titles are always public. One function of the title is to uniquely identify that asset. (You can think of that like the address to your home on its deed or the vehicle ID number on your car title). But titles do more. Titles make property rights transferrable from one owner to another. That has massive value which we will explain later. In this article, I want to focus on clarifying what should and should not be in a digital title, thus how you should and shouldn’t bitmark your stuff. Let’s use an example to get started.

The other day, I read that location information is super valuable so I wanted to start an Applet bitmarking my location data:

The Applet automatically created the following digital property:

The property bitmark (title) represents rights to access my location data. This record is visible from the Registry. Thus, if I wanted to give or sell my location data (asset), I would not want that data embedded in the title itself. Yet that is what this Applet did. Inside the public metadata of the bitmark contains a link to my actual location:

Location is a data set that most people would think of as sensitive. I know I do. Putting sensitive data into the title is not what we want.

What should go in a title?

It is important that the title describes the asset, usually from an economic value perspective, without revealing potentially sensitive information about the asset itself.

Here are three examples to help clarify:

  1. Fitbit daily activity — Put things like date and device type, maybe a defining characteristic like age or gender (your preference) in the title. Everything else (step count, calories burned, food ate, sleep cycle, and heart information, …) should go in the asset itself. Folks who want the metadata for their research purposes, can ask your permission, you give consent and they get the full asset.
  2. Instagram photos — Similar to health data, you’ll want to name your photo title something that defines the asset like a caption. You can include the time, location, date or the bare minimum of information that makes it memorable and valuable. If the Bitmark property system becomes a sort of marketplace one day, a gallery buyer can potentially search relevant titles for something they want to highlight in their next show. The asset is the photo itself.
  3. Medium stories — Include sparse but important information about the piece, date, author, or title perhaps. The metadata is the story itself. By being bitmarked, we hope someday these titles will be checked or authenticated, so that when content is shared over messaging apps, the reader knows they are reading a verified source. Think similarly to the blue check box next to certain handles on Twitter.

Bitmark is the universal property ownership system for digital environment.

One of the most important functions a formal property system does is to transform assets from a less accessible state to a more accessible state, so that ownership can be easily communicated and assembled within a broader network. When an individual asserts ownership over their data control points change: networks become economies.

Converting an asset such as a house into an abstract concept such as a property right requires a complex system to record and organize the socially and economically useful attributes of ownership. The act of embodying an asset in a property title and recording it in a public ledger facilitates a consensus among actors as to how assets can be held, used, and exchanged.

Bitmark is about imagining a future where individual internet users will take back ownership of their digital lives — a new internet built on individual freedom and empowerment where everyone has a chance at success. This freedom stems from ownership of digital property just as we own everything we buy and build in the physical world.

If you’re interested in going deeper, one of the best features of the IFTTT platform is that you can create your own Applets, extending core functionality that the service provides. For anyone looking to extend our service here is a list of metadata options to consider:

Created (date), Contributor, Coverage, Creator, Description, Dimensions, Duration, Edition, Format, Identifier, Language, License, Medium, Publisher, Relation, Rights, Size, Source, Subject, Keywords, Type, Version, Other*

These options come from our web app and they work well for most personal data and digital assets. We recommend using them, but you can also create your own metadata. Just be clear on what will always be public (titles) and what can be kept private (assets). A good analogy to keep in mind is that the deed (title) to your home doesn’t reveal what’s inside your home, but it does explain where to find your home.

Join us in our efforts to democratize the digital economy. Sign up for our beta and try our IFTTT service. If you have any questions, we’re @BitmarkInc on Twitter.

By Bitmark Inc. on July 15, 2017.

What is your digital fire drill?

What valuable items would you miss if your phone or computer was lost or stolen today?

If you were in an accident, would your loved ones be able to gain access to your digital valuables — your personal data and digital assets — if you were incapacitated? If you were to die tomorrow, which pieces of your digital property would you want your loved ones to have?

Here’s what Sean Moss-Pultz, our CEO, would take if his digital house was on fire:

  • Master keys for digital assets (bitcoin, ethereum, bitmark, …)
  • Recover codes for password manager
  • Recover codes for encrypted hard drives
  • Recover codes for online accounts with 2FA
  • SSH keys and config file
  • Genomic data (23andMe)
  • Notes containing important family, financial, tax, medical information
  • Personal photos and videos (on phones, and on instagram)
  • Health/fitness/sleep data
  • Twitter likes
  • Google Contacts
  • Chrome bookmarks
  • Kindle highlights
  • Music playlists (Spotify and Apple)
  • Important personal and business documents from specific cloud storage folders
  • Starred emails

And here is what Wan Lin, our summer intern, would take with her:

  • Personal and Facebook photos (family and boyfriend)
  • Instagram photos and videos
  • Flickr photos
  • Evernote note with #work tag
  • Files in the “Bitmark” folder on Google Drive
  • Master thesis, saved in Dropbox
  • University acceptance letter
  • Facebook friends list
  • Business contacts in iOS contact
  • Name cards scanned and saved in Evernote
  • WordPress blog posts
  • Cryptocurrency wallets
  • Data from password management app
  • Signed work contracts attached in emails
  • Reading notes saved in Evernote
  • Video of the first day my son walked by himself (when she has a son and that happens)
  • Emails related to unfinished client work, so she can continue the work
  • Artworks on Behance
  • Starred Gmail emails

Why didn’t Sean and Wan Lin include access to their Facebook and other online accounts, purchased items like Adobe Photoshop, digital music, and eBooks? The short answer is that they didn’t want their friends and family to go to jail.

Online accounts are governed by the terms-of-service agreement to which you agreed (or, more likely, clicked a mandatory agreement box without reading) upon opening your account. Those agreements, plus state and federal privacy laws and laws that criminalize unauthorized access to computers, severely limit access to online accounts. In many situations it is a criminal offense to share your accounts with any 3rd-party no matter your relation to them.

Software and digital media is equally problematic. Contracts with service providers may be automatically terminated (by the terms of service) when a customer dies. This means that there is no right for heirs to access that data. To add insult to injury, this is compounded by the fact that many digital assets are only granted with non-transferrable rights of use (a license agreement). For example, both Amazon and Apple only offer their digital products with single user rights. This means that digital products bought through such services can only be used by the purchaser, and cannot be passed on.

This is just the beginning of a conversation around living digital.

The Bitmark mission is to empower universal digital ownership so we can live free online. One of our tools will be a collection of IFTTT applets to get started building your digital estate. These applets will interface with the digital environments where we create and share things: social media, fitness and health apps, productivity and financial software, and much more. They allow users to simply apply a mark of accepted ownership to new creations and embed it into the standardized, universal digital property system Bitmark has created. This allows individuals to derive value from their digital property just as we all do from the things we own in the physical world — selling, buying, transferring, donating, licensing, passing down, protecting, and much more.

Sign up for our beta to stay posted. If you have any questions, we’re @BitmarkInc on Twitter.

By Bitmark Inc. on July 1, 2017.