What Happens to Our Social Media Identity When We Die by khabarinc

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									What Happens to Our Social Media Identity
When We Die?
Presented by Rajesh Jyotishi
May 2012


How long does our online presence last?

If you use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter,
you may have wondered what happens when
users die. Are profiles immortal? Are
memories lost? Few users really know.

Curiosity about this topic dates to the days of
MySpace. When young MySpace users died,
their pages lived on—the social media portal
went with a policy of not assigning control of
a dead user’s account to another person,
reflecting both privacy concerns and respect
for the deceased. So how do the major social
media sites in this decade handle such
issues?

Facebook. If you pass away, your page won’t disappear – unless you or your loved ones decide
that it should.

Facebook adopted a policy of ―memorializing‖ the pages of deceased users. When an account is
memorialized, no one can log into it any further. Memorialized pages are taken out of
Facebook’s powerful general search option, but their walls remain open for tribute postings by
Facebook friends. In fact, only friends can see the profile/timeline.

Memorialization isn’t the only choice available. An account can be taken down if ―verified
immediate family members‖ or executors request. To submit such a request, you log into
Facebook, visit the Facebook Help Center, and visit Basics » Manage Your Account » Privacy.
A link gives you an opportunity to notify Facebook of a deceased user, and this leads to a simple
form. Besides the basics (full name of user, page URL and the dead user’s email address), you
must report your relationship to the user and state whether you want the profile to be removed or
not. It also asks for you to upload the death or birth certificate of the deceased, or another file
document showing ―proof of authority‖ to report the death under local law.

Here's an interesting development: In 2012, an Israeli company called Willook created a free
Facebook app called If I Die. The app asks you to appoint three ―trustees‖ for your Facebook
profile. These trustees can use the app to confirm your death, whereupon your final status
updates and videos will appear on your profile, either all at once or according to a schedule.
There is no limit to the number of post-mortem status updates and videos you may create.

LinkedIn. The ―world’s largest professional network‖ might memorialize your profile if you
pass away. In its privacy notice, LinkedIn states: ―If we learn that a User is deceased, we may
memorialize the User’s account. In these cases we may restrict profile access, remove messaging
functionality, and close an account if we receive a formal request from the User’s next of kin or
other proper legal request to do so.‖ So the policy mimics Facebook’s, though memorialization is
not a given.

Twitter. When it comes to deactivating accounts of deceased users, Twitter takes a very
thorough approach. You must actually mail or fax the requested documentation to its San
Francisco headquarters.

As its Help Center notes, Twitter requires you to provide

      The account username (@username, twitter.com/username)
      A copy of the user’s death certificate
      A copy of your driver’s license (or government-issued ID card)
      A signed, notarized statement presenting:

1. Your first and last name
2. Your current contact information
3. Your email address
4. Your relationship to the deceased Twitter account user
5. The action you want accomplished (―please deactivate the Twitter account for ________‖)

6. Either a link to an online obituary of the deceased or a copy of a newspaper obituary of the
deceased (this is optional).

It only accepts this documentation from ―verified immediate family members‖ or executors
(specifically, ―a person authorized to act on behalf of the estate‖).

When a Twitter user dies, no heir, relative, friend or executor can log into the account—no one.
Its policy states, ―We are unable to provide login information for the account to anyone
regardless of his or her relationship to the deceased.‖

Your digital assets can be managed after your passing.

Websites like Legacy Locker and DataInherit exist to help people safeguard and convey online
data to heirs. Sites such as Great Goodbye, Great Respectance, and 1,000memories serve as
portals for last emails, last videos and posthumous online tributes. Considering all this, it seems
that the online world may be more ready for our passing than we are.

Published by Khabar Magazine, Moneywise section May 2012.

								
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