Tuesday, September 18th 2018

Digital Afterlife: What Happens to Your Online Accounts After You’re Gone?

How many online accounts do you have? Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, YouTube, LinkedIn, blogs, online banking, email—the list goes on. Because of this, you may stick around for a lot longer than you had planned. Many new companies, like DataInherit, My Web Will and AssetLock are offering services to take care of your web presence after your death. Another option is to leave instructions for someone with your passwords, usernames and what you would like done with the accounts. However, some material may be too sensitive (private emails, financial accounts) for that approach; the wrong people might end up with information you don’t want revealed. It should also be kept separate from a will, which becomes public record—meaning your account passwords would become public record if they aren’t changed. However, different websites have different “terms of service” which may make is difficult for the average person to navigate, say John Romano and Evan Carroll, the authors of the book Your Digital Afterlife and founders of the site The Digital Beyond.

Facebook, for example, can either delete a deceased person’s page or memorialize it, meaning friends can write condolences and other things on the page, if shown a death certificate or news item reporting the death. To access a deceased person’s account, Gmail requires proof of death, an email you received from the person and proof “that you are the lawful representative of the deceased’s estate.” Twitter will terminate the account and/or provide the family with an archive of the deceased’s tweets.

Yahoo, on the other hand, which owns photo-sharing site Flickr, doesn’t allow accounts to be transferred. They will delete the account and all of its contents upon proof of death, so it’s important to back up any photos hosted on the site or request that an executor back up the photos before providing Yahoo with a death certificate.

It’s always important to think about how you’re being represented on the internet, but you don’t want to leave it up to the service providers to decide what happens to your online legacy.

Posted by Nancy on March 22, 2011 at 5:30pm.

2 Responses to “Digital Afterlife: What Happens to Your Online Accounts After You’re Gone?”

  1. Great Story Nancy, very informative. At World Without Me we are working on technology and solutions for Digital Afterlife.

    Here’s a video introduction to World Without Me http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOK9GETJBVA .

    WorldWithoutMe.com is a Percial (Personal – Social) platform that empowers users with tools to Archive and Bequeath their Digital and Social Assets , Plan Digital Afterlife and Live Digitally Forever!

    On WorldWithoutMe users can:

    1. Plan their Digital Afterlife.
    2. Create an Autobiography on the go by Archiving Facebook updates, Tweets, Documents, Emails and assign the inheritor.
    3. Create Dispatches (messages) for Future (lifetime and beyond).
    4. Start and participate in Private discussions.

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