What Happens To Your Online Life When You Die? – You could say one of the more negative aspects of social media is it can be a fairly morbid affair at times. What we mean by that is if you have a large collection of virtual friends, it’s likely over the years you are going to see a lot of RIPs posted on pages.
You might not know these people well, but it can still be upsetting to see someone having fun in a photograph on Monday, writing down their thoughts on Tuesday, and then the next post on Wednesday is someone lamenting the loss of that person’s life. They hang around, too, even in death, showing up in your Facebook memories; the witty, kind,intelligent and loving beings coming back to you for a while…and not always at the right time.
We might ask, do you ever really die online? Let’s look at Facebook first. Does the social media platform know when you are dead? It might seem a little insensitive to some if a cold algorithm tells them to wish their friend a happy birthday, and that friend died three days earlier after being hit by a cement truck.
In 2019, it was reported by the New York Times that Facebook was trying to stop things like this happening, but if an account is just left, well, it’s hard for Facebook to stop it being active. Action needs to be taken. The BBC has asked the same question, what happens with your online life when you die, and in one article gives the example of a girl who was killed by her boyfriend.
The girl’s profile was never deleted, but neither were the photos of the girl with the killer. “I wanted to remember Hollie in her happy times without being able to see the face of her killer every time,” the girl’s friend told the BBC. Complaints were made, and after initially refusing to take the said victim/perpetrator photos down, Facebook did in the end get rid of all those images.
So, that’s one thing. If you die and still have a profile on social media, then it seems your friends or family can ask Facebook to edit the profile. If some teenager’s posts are him and his friends constantly partying, puking, smoke billowing from plastic bottles, can the family ask for those photos to be removed? It’s not easy to answer, but it does seem there is a kind of loophole.
Meaning, those photos belonged to you, you died, so now they belong to your estate holder. That might be your family. We must tell you, though, that getting photos removed seems difficult. As we said, it’s been done, but expect it to be a challenge. You can find many stories out there in which parents have tried to gain full access to their deceased child’s Facebook page and have failed.
What happens to a dead person’s digital assets and who owns them is right now still a matter of controversy. There are some things you can do while you are alive, though, for a smooth digital death. Once Facebook has been informed that you are dead someone will have to prove that to the company and Facebook can freeze that page in time.
This will require documents such as a death certificate. No one can log into the account any longer, but if you so choose while you are alive you can tell Facebook who can manage your page in your infinite absence. These people are called legacy contacts. They can change your profile picture, write posts, add friends, but they cannot delete anything, request new friends or read your private messages.
If you want to just disappear from the platform once you give up the ghost, you can request your page is deleted. Err, we guess we will tell you that this is something you have to do now, before you die. Just Google how to do that, it’s easy. It has to be easy, because we are told that in 2018, around 8,000 Facebook users were dying each and every day.
Well, that’s a number given by one source in 2018. We also found the number of 312,500 a month, cited by another newspaper. As Instagram is owned by Facebook, the policy is pretty similar. Families can have the account taken down, or an account can stay but frozen. The difference is that with Instagram you can’t choose a legacy contact, so someone will have to write to Instagram to ask for the account to be frozen.
That’s just Facebook, but for most people their digital footprint has been trampling through various virtual spaces for years. Their mark is everywhere. Twitter is similar to Facebook, in that you’ll have to inform the company of the death, prove it’s real with a death certificate, sign a statement to say you are real, and you can get the account taken down.
Otherwise it just stays. Twitter also states that images of the deceased can be removed, but only in special circumstances. Pinterest is the same, after a request an account can be deactivated. In fact, that’s the case for most social sites. When you die a family member can have you removed, virtually, from the platform.
The only difference is what proof you must hand over as to the death and who you are. Apparently, LinkedIn just wants to know how you are related to the person and then send them the obituary of that person. With Gmail things are a little different. You might not know this, but Gmail already offers you options about what to do with your account after a specific amount of time of non-use.
You can go to something called “Inactive Account Manager” and that can be set so the account will be deleted after a certain time that the account hasn’t been used. You can also take this a step further and add 10 trusted friends or family members who will receive a notification when this deactivation kicks in.
With a death certificate, proof you are the owner of the deceased’s estate, and information about yourself, you can also gain access to the dead person’s account. As for our beloved YouTube, the Daily Dot wrote that the company has, and will, delete videos from inactive accounts. That doesn’t mean the person died, but the person no longer uses the account.
The same story said there are plenty of videos still up there from deceased account holders,but it seems activity remains around those videos. But can anyone take control over the account? It’s the same story again, you’ll need to provide a death certificate, as well as all the information associated with the account.
But if the account holder is over 18 you’ll also again need to show you have power of attorney. If the account holder is younger than 18, the parents can gain access by showing YouTube the death and birth certificate, quite a depressing couple if ever there was one. Microsoft seems to make the process a bit easier with their next of kin policy, which is very easy to follow.
Let’s say your son has had a Microsoft email for a decade. Similar to Gmail, with some effort you can get your hands on all the data in those emails. You’ll need the death certificate again, a document proving you are the benefactor of the estate, a marriage certificate if you were married to the dead person, lots of personal information about yourself and also information relating to the account of the deceased.
If you pass this process Microsoft won’t give you access to that account, but will send all the data to you on a DVD. You’ll get that DVD in just over a week usually. Microsoft says that if no one comes forward to request that information then an account is almost always deleted after one year and one month.
Any accounts with Apple tied to your Apple ID the company states are non-transferrable. They can be closed after your death, but someone will need to show a death certificate. It’s virtually the same with Yahoo accounts, eBay, and PayPal. They need to be showed proof someone died, but with PayPal if you want to close the account you’ll need to be a legal executor.
But that footprint of your just goes on and on. You might bank online, but we won’t go too much into cash as that’s a different topical together. We can just say that finances of the deceased are an issue that will be dealt with by thenext of kin. More importantly, what about your dating profile? Will people still be trying to hook up with your beautiful face after it’s already started decomposing?
Will so-called sapiosexuals be sending you lines of poetry well after you’ve uttered your last solemn syllable? According to the Match Group, which owns Tinder and a bunch of other dating sites and apps,the process is similar to most of the tech we have already discussed. The Match Group writes, an “account is non-transferable and all of your rights to your profile or contents within your account terminate upon your death.
”It does seem, though, that unless someone contacts Match, your profile will be therefor a while to come. The way these things usually work anyway, is that if there is no activity from you,you won’t show up. The account, like the deceased, will become dormant. Match is vague, but it says when you die your profile will just “hide” after some time.
If you know you are going to die, of course you can leave passwords and instructions with someone and they can be an executor and delete or manage your profile, but that might be the last thing on your mind. We might also add that you will likely live on in some way, as all your online activity won’t just disappear from the Internet.
Many of you will know, because you’ve done it, that Googling your name will pull up some information about you. If you want to start the process of managing what will happen to your digital estate after you die you can do that now. As we have shown, much of the tech you use will have options as to what happens to your data after you die.
You can find information about this in those Terms of Service agreements you never read. If it’s important to you, you might also make a will with a designated digital executor written into it. In that will, state what you want to happen to your data for each platform, website, etc. Make sure that executor will receive your death certificate, and you might also give them all your login information.
You might not care, because, well, you are dead. What does it matter? The simple answer is it might matter to some of your friends, family, loved ones. To be immortalized, or not to be immortalized, that is the question. What do you think? Do you want to be out there online long after you pass away, or do you want to disappear? Tell us in the comments.