Recently a friend of mine came across a deceased ex-colleague on his LinkedIn account and it got me thinking about what happens to our digital footprint once we are gone and how we can make sure the accounts are shutdown or the personal data and assets within them passed on to our nearest and dearest.
Trawling through the major social media platforms they all seem to share the same view point, that is they won’t allow access to the account or give out passwords or transfer any of the content to the next of kin but accounts can be deactivated.
To deactivate accounts there are different levels of procedures depending on the company. For example LinkedIn allows any user to complete a Verification of Death form which when completed and verified shuts down their account.
Twitter’s process is more complicated, asking for the twitter account name, a copy of the death certificate, a signed statement and a drivers license of the person requesting the deletion to prove that they are a relation. For such a modern platform they strangely insist on you either faxing or mailing the documents.
Facebook like the above won’t provide login information but you can, once verified, either request the removal of the account but you have to provide the deceased’s birth and death certificate and proof that you are the lawful representative of the estate, or you can allow them to memorialise the account, this means that no one can log into the account and depending on their privacy settings it will allow friends to post messages to the timeline.
But what about the assets that have been uploaded? Most people will have amassed a considerable amount of photos during their lifetime online, how do you get hold of these?
Unfortunately the law doesn’t seem to have caught up with modern life yet so ownership of digital content is still a grey area with most providers not allowing it to passed on to your relatives. A high profile example of this is Bruce Willis’ campaign to pass his iTunes collection on to his daughters.
If your digital life is important to you it only seems sensible to include your wishes in your Will this should include your current passwords. Or there are companies out there like Legacy Locker that provide a secure repository for your digital content and allow access in the event of your death.
Either way it is clear, if you care about your digital assets you should plan and spell out in legal documentation what you want done after you have gone, otherwise your digital ghost could come back to haunt your nearest and dearest when they least expect it.