As we get older, we start to think about getting our affairs in order. We do up our wills, tell our loved ones our burial wishes and we make sure they have all the necessary banking information. But have you thought about what happens to your online identity after you die? Who owns the information? Your estate or Facebook and Google?
While this might seem like a trivial thing when facing death, it’s something to think about. We spend so much time online cultivating our brand, that it seems only natural to have a plan for what happens to it after we leave this life. If you don’t have a plan, most of your social media accounts will remain live, unless a family member requests it be removed. And even then, it’s not a sure thing. For example Google’s policy for accessing a deceased user account on Gmail plainly states that even with a death certificate, it may not grant your loved ones access.
Here’s something else to think about:
Over 10,000 deceased people on Facebook can still receive friend requests, be tagged in photos and wished a happy birthday.
I can personally speak to this as I have two friends who have passed away over the past five years whose profiles still pop up in my Facebook feeds for birthdays and other notices.
However, if your preference is to keep some form of online presence after death, Facebook can turn your profile into a memorial page so your friends can still post and look at pictures; but it removes you from the birthday reminders and the “People You May Know” prompts.
My point here is that it’s important that you take change of your online life after death. Think about what you are leaving behind and how you want your ‘online estate’ to be handled.
Here’s a great visual from WebpageFX that outlines what happens to your online self after death.