With the passing of a friend or loved one it becomes hard to imaging life without them.
But with a “footprint” stamped across your digital life perhaps none of us are really lost any more?
I originally wrote this article several years ago but refrained from publishing out of respect for family and friends who had recently lost loved ones. But it would appear that there will never be a good time for this post. So here it is.
The one thing any social or online media user can be sure of is that unless they have a very detailed will it won’t be them that decides what happens to their online accounts, posts, comments, photos, blogs or such.
For the most part the departed are erased after a short period when the service provider has been notified. This serves several purposes.
- Helps prevent the departed’s presence being abused
- Helps the service provider reduce their footprint slightly
- Prevents the service provider getting into any potential legal wrangle around the content
- Prevents the family and friends from being constantly (and possibly painfully) reminded of their loss
There’s probably a whole bucket of other reasons too.
Some services don’t take any action at all and that leaves the accounts open to abuse or in a sort of permanent limbo.
But what if you did want to take control of your Digital Afterlife? Best start planning whilst it’s your decision. Check with each and every provider what their policy is and get it documented somewhere your executor or administrator will find easily. The list below may help get you started.
Let’s look at Facebook. They’ve just rolled out some new features to try to help a user decide what hey want to happen after they’ve passed away.
Historically they’ve moved to memorialising rather than a deletion process for the deceased. Sort of locking the account so that current friends can view it at will.
Facebook has had to tweak this quite a bit (for example to prevent dead friends from appearing in liked or advertised content suggestions or paid-for-content lists).
The latest update (currently only available in the USA) allows a user to select a “curator” for their account.
You will need a copy of the Death Certificate.
- Facebook add a “Remembering” prefix on the deceased’s profile page.
- The curator can change the deceased profile and cover pictures.
- The curator can add a single “sticky” post to the top of the deceased’s page.
- The curator can accept or reject new friend requests on behalf of the deceased.
- The curator can choose to delete the deceased’s account.
- The curator can download an archive of standard content. This excludes Messages but includes posts and photos and the deceased “About” profile.
Facebook have specifically excluded Messaging from the formulae and that seems wise.
Because the curator is set up in advance the “deceased” can give some or all of these options to the curator – pick and choose options.
More details are available on the Facebook Newsroom.
Twitter are significantly less helpful. the only available option is to deactivate the account. There is no option to delegate access prior to death (other than sharing your credentials.
To deactivate an account for a deceased person you will need to contact Twitter Privacy. They will send you more information on how to proceed but you will need so form of acceptable ID and a copy of the Death Certificate.
You’ll need to contact the Blogging site directly for the most appropriate advice.
WordPress allow you to decide what action to take on a deceased person’s blog. A free form email should be sent to Password Help explaining your request. WordPress will require a copy of the Death Certificate and a legal empowerment such as a Power of Attorney.
This really is a very broad sword. The registrar, the hosting company and the name service all need to be contacted and all will have different rules and requirements.
1and1 for example require legal evidence that you are empowered to act for the deceased or have legally taken possession of their estate. This is not as straightforward as it appears and is likely to have a cost.
GoDaddy and some other domain providers on the other hand use the Special Domain Services to control the requ system for them. The information and process is similar though.
I would expect the process to be no easier with any other provider.
Final Word of Warning
We do not recocommend sharing your online passwords, even with your most trusted and closest family and friends and loved ones. But you could (at a cost) keep an encrypted Memory Vault of your credentials with your will or with your attorney/ lawyer. Of course, you need some way of telling people the single password for the vault, but I’m sure you can figure that bit out.
- Facebook: Memorialisation Request
- Facebook rolls out feature for users when they die
- Contacting Twitter about a deceased or incapacitated user
- WordPress Support: Deceased User
- 1and1 Help Center: Establishing Control of a Domain Owned by a 1&1 Customer who is Now Deceased
- GoDaddy Help: How to gain access to domains/accounts after owner’s death https://uk.godaddy.com/help/how-to-gain-access-to-domainsaccounts-after-owners-death-8356