Digital Afterlife What happens to your social media accounts when you die?

In our wills, we bequeath our belongings to others or to organisations as endowment funds. The burning question is what should happen to your online accounts when you die?

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As the adage goes, the only thing that is certain in life is death. As such, most people make a plan on what to do with the money and property they have acquired over their working lives.

In our wills, we bequeath our belongings to others or to organisations as endowment funds.

At least, over the last decade, the Internet has become an essential part of our daily lives. So, while you may be gone, the adage ‘the Internet never forgets’ means that you will leave behind many intangible but valuable memories for your family and friends.

The burning question is, what should happen to your online accounts when you die?

Google

The Internet company allows the option of close family and friends to gain control of your account when you die. This can be set up with the Inactive Account Manager feature. This feature also allows you to set a time period during which if you have not logged in, then your relatives would be alerted and then they can take over your account. Google offers a range of options, including granting full control to your inbox, the option to download your data and even the option to delete your account completely.

Facebook and Instagram

Similarly, Facebook allows you to designate a person close to you to become your ‘legacy contact’. This person will be able to among other things memorialise your account (which can also be done by anybody), write a post informing your Facebook friends about your burial, your final message and other things. This person would also be able to respond to friend requests, update your profile and cover photos.

There is also the option for your legacy contact to download your data including likes, posts you have made and posts you have shared. This person would however not be able to login into your account, make changes to posts or read messages. Facebook, which owns Instagram, allows for the memorialisation of your account and even deletion of the account by filling an online form and providing some evidence.

Twitter

Unlike the other social media giants, the microblogging platform does not allow for users to assign a legacy contact person. However, in case of death, close relatives can report to Twitter for the removal of an account. They would have to provide documents including a death certificate and identity cards. Twitter will however, in no circumstance allow anybody else gain access to your account, no matter their relationship with you.

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