Henrik de Gyor: [0:01] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I am Henrik de Gyor. Today I am speaking with Deborah Gonzalez. Deborah, how are you?
Deborah Gonzalez: [0:10] I am good. Thank you for having me today.
Henrik: [0:14] Deborah, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Deborah: [0:16] First of all, I am an attorney. I also own a consulting company called Law2sm. What we do is look at the legal aspects of online digital and social media activity. One of the things that I work with, particularly with my clients, is to make them understand what the concept of Digital Assets is and that these Digital Assets have value that need to be protected. Right?
[0:43] Then, as they go and make certain decisions to protect those assets, to think about different scenarios of what may happen in case the access and control management that they have in place might need to change.
[1:00] We take two different perspectives. When we are working with individuals, we are looking at a digital legacy plan and personal digital assets, but when we are working with businesses, we are looking at a digital succession plan.
Henrik: [1:16] Deborah, what should people consider for succession planning for digital assets whether individuals leave an organization voluntarily, involuntarily, or quite literally die while employed for a company in the United States?
Deborah: [1:30] I think the first thing is that people need to be aware that this can be an issue. I don’t think people go into business and think, “Oh, my god. The person who is in charge of all my assets is going to get hit by a car and die or become so critically injured that they can’t do their job.” It is important as a business person to make sure that is in our consciousness.
[1:53] Then, make sure that we put it into a succession plan regarding the control access and management of these assets. No matter what kind of scenario happens. Right? Whether it is a voluntary separation with an employee or an involuntary separation with an employee.
[2:10] The second thing is that this plan should also include an inventory of the digital assets, who has access and control over those digital assets, and what are the credentials to access those digital assets. This will help because you combine this with the protocol in place for managers and supervisors to have those credentials as well. If something happens, the information isn’t lost to the business completely. We call this our digital record keeping. Making sure we know what we have and how to get to them.
[2:45] Third, I always suggest to my clients that they integrate into the exit interview. Some of these businesses might even have a terminated employee checklist that they have to go through these steps when an employee leaves the company but add a couple of items that relate specifically to digital assets and their credentials, and ensure that these credentials are transferred. Once they are transferred, make sure also that these credentials are changed, so that employee no longer has access to them from outside of the company.
Henrik: [3:21] Deborah, are there laws protecting digital assets after death?
Deborah: [3:24] Yes, and it’s really interesting because one of the things that we have to think about, is go back into the whole idea of the US, in terms of the laws being very property centric. The first laws that we have that will deal digital assets and any transfer are what we call the inheritance laws, especially for personal digital assets. That’s in our constitution, right? This idea of property, and so what we in the legal terms call, “The Power of Dead Hands.” This is very different from other countries who are more interested in that property not be wasted. If the person has died or been terminated, then that property needs to be changed to somebody who can use it. That’s a very different perspective than the US perspective.
[4:48] You can think of your frequent flyer miles, for example, what will they say? You can transfer miles, you can gift miles while you are alive, but not once you are dead. OK? Other things that also act that way are maybe your email systems or online banking.
[5:06] From a business perspective, then you have to think of some of the service provider agreements like if you are using cloud storage for your digital assets. What do they say about their assets and termination of an employee, or a change of the credentials? You want to make sure that if there is a third party involved that you know what the service provider agreements actually say.
[6:31] The other thing that I want to bring up is that we did have a Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act that was approved in July 2014, trying to get a standard across the nation, but that is voluntary. That’s not a federal mandated act.
[6:49] But you can get some additional information. There is a great blogger, Geoffrey Fowler, who wrote “Life and Death Online: Who Controls a Digital Legacy?” and you can certainly Google him and follow the information that he’s put out there. He writes for the Wall Street Journal. He’s definitely looking at the value these digital assets have.
Henrik: [7:11] What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with digital asset management?
Deborah: [7:15] The biggest challenge that I’ve seen is this unawareness of the issue, that there’s all these assets out there in digital space, and that we’ve put someplace and it’s very easy to lose track of them if we don’t have a system in place to actually manage them. It becomes almost an afterthought for so many businesses and individuals.
[7:41] When someone dies, or when an employee abruptly leaves, this can cause a lot of chaos. It can be a loss to the business of client information, which can then lead to a loss of financial assets. There’s a lot of wasted time that happens trying to figure out what the password is or even how to reset the password and lots of frustration. It can actually affect the whole work environment as they’re trying to get a hold on these digital assets.
[8:11] As for the biggest success, I think it’s when clients actually develop a plan that addresses the issue, and it’s almost like a sigh of relief, that they know that they’ve addressed this and they’ve taken care of it. More importantly, not only did they address it, but then that they integrate it into the way that they operate their business, because this isn’t something that you just do once and then sort of forget, as you see the laws are changing. Therefore you have to make sure that plans that you have in place for your business change as well and is up to date with the laws and what you need to do to protect your assets.
Henrik: [8:48] What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Deborah: [8:53] The first thing that I’d like to share is that the whole digital assets arena is really growing, and it’s getting integrated with things such as the privacy concerns and the security concerns. The first bit of advice is learn about it and keep learning about it.
[9:09] I usually tell people, “Read. Keep up to date.” I know there’s a lot of things going on. There are new technologies being involved, new trends and new headlines. You can certainly use things like Google Alerts or Talkwalker to get the new things pushed to you in an email so that you can keep up to date with that.
[9:29] Another thing I’d like to suggest is network. Meet with others in the digital asset management field, whether that’s following certain people on Twitter and seeing what they’re talking about, seeing what they’re reading, seeing where they’re going, or going to these conferences, even if you can’t go in person.
[9:46] So many of these conferences are now being done virtually, and so you’re able to even communicate with others who are not able to physically attend the conference, but that you can communicate online. Networking is really important because everybody reads something. Pulling that all together can make it a lot easier than having the responsibility of trying to read everything that there is.
[10:11] The last thing that I would suggest is talk about what you’re doing with digital asset management and listen to what others are doing and share those best practices. Share the lessons learned, because we all make mistakes. There’s always something to learn about what not to do or how to do it better next. Being able to talk about it also helps us reflect what happened and what we can do better.
Henrik: [10:36] Great. Well thanks, Deborah.
Deborah: [10:37] OK.
Henrik: [10:38] Deborah, where can we find more information on what you do?
Henrik: [10:58] For more on this and other digital asset management topics, login to AnotherDAMblog.com. For more this podcast and 150 other podcast episodes, including transcripts of every interview, go to AnotherDAMpodcast.com. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email me at AnotherDAMblog@Gmail.com.