Tombstones and Twitter Feeds: Social Media After You Die
For centuries, man has pondered what comes after death. many answers have arisen, but there’s still one question that might not have crossed your mind.
What happens to my profile after I die?
We spend hours on crafting our social media profiles to put them on display for our friends, family, and coworkers. We put time and effort into our profiles as a way of expressing a particular side of ourselves. Over the years, so much information goes into our profiles that we sometimes have to see a “On this day 4 years ago…” notification to even remember what we posted.
And then there’s the information on the backend. In order to have a profile, one must create an account by providing a name, email address, and the occasional gender identification. Providing personal information is typical, and many enter it without a second thought. Living in a digital world, this kind of interaction with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media providers can become part of daily protocol.
While we are alive, our information belongs to us. Despite popular belief, companies like Facebook – who also owns Instagram – do not actually sell any information directly entered into their systems. In legal terms, when you accept the user agreement there is no fine text relinquishing ownership of that data. However, these companies may obtain and distribute data collected via tracking cookies. And when we die, our social media profiles will be treated similarly to property.
Due to privacy concerns, data will not be given to next of kin, unlike other forms of property. (If you would like for that to happen, it must be stated in a legal document, such as a will.) For most platforms, if there is no legal documentation stating how ownership is to be transferred, one of two things can happen: either a protocol will be in place to deactivate the account after an allotted time period of inactivity, or the account will remain up but inactive and be lost in the sea of dormant pages floating around the web.
Facebook has a third option that is slightly different. Rather than delete all the data, the account can be memorialized. Once memorialized, the account can no longer be logged into, but people can still write on the wall, wish the deceased a happy birthday, and even tag the profile in photos. To take it a step further, Facebook allows there to be a Legacy Contact, who can actively manage your memorialized page. But an important note before you try this out: once memorialized the account cannot be reverted into a normal account.
If a loved one opts for a more traditional route and wants the account to be deactivated, it is typical for the site to request a death certificate as well as a form of identification. This is to make sure the owner of the profile is truly dead, and whomever is requesting the deactivation is appropriately related to the deceased. Deactivation can be – and should be unless memorialized – stated in a legal document, such as a will, unless a trusted third party can log-in into said account.
No matter which path you prefer, you shouldn’t leave your profile to flap in the wind as an active but dormant account. Just because you’re dead doesn’t mean you can’t be hacked.
Facebook and LinkedIn have the names and other personal information of your constituents. Dead or not, would you really want someone posting on your feed without your permission? Information security is always a priority. Remember, it’s not always just us that can be affected.
We must always be cyber-aware. For our sakes, and for the sakes of those close to us. Even after death.
If you, your organization or company, or someone you know would like more information about our company or what happens to your online presence after you die, please do not hesitate to reach out to Mission Multiplier at firstname.lastname@example.org.