Digital Legacy Once you Pass Away

Digital Legacy Once you Pass Away

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Many people live long after they’re gone through social media. There is no such thing as a digital death.

Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn and many other major social media sites have policies regarding the death of its users. Are you familiar with them?

While losing a family member, friend, colleague, classmate or connection is often painful, imagine the reminder of the dearly departed when they appear on your Timeline, Twitter Feed, MySpace Stream or LinkedIn profile. This is especially so when the deceased user is received as a “friend recommendation” through mutual friends.

From the digital age of sending a simple email or text message to an age of information overload where we publish our entire lives through timelines, tweets or status updates, many social media users tell all and provide all. From photographs and blog posts to complete personal histories, our entire lives have become an open book.

Will your Facebook or Twitter followers know when you die? With MySpace itself dying a slow death, will anyone miss you or notice you gone? As for LinkedIn, a few too many profile views should reveal your dearly departed status.

As a social media guru with over 76,000 contacts spread across six social media networks, one of them – Barry Epstein, of Boca Raton, Fla. – advised that he was closing the accounts of his recently deceased son. Aware of the “memorial” policies of Facebook, I was prompted to investigate the various social media policies of deceased users’ accounts and what can be done to preserve, memorialize or delete them following death.

“I believe social media is really useful for memorializing the deceased,” stated Epstein. “No matter what happens at the memorial service, people are using social media as a way to deal with their grief, but in a way that funerals don’t allow.”

With over 1.1 million social media users dying annually, family, friends, social media providers and the Internet are left to deal with a deceased user’s digital bits. When we die, who takes control of our social media networks?

“The interactions of a person through social media are a facet of a life and supply some tangible evidence about what they valued and who they chose to interact with while alive,” said Daniel Forrester, author of “Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization.” “While the person has died, their digital life already has been imprinted with their permission and thus it should continue on.”

Although was not the first social media provider to establish a policy for its 800 million users worldwide, it was the highest profile because of the way it addressed the issue. Rather than allow a family member to take control of a deceased user’s account, Facebook instead decided to take things a step further and allowed them to be deleted or memorialized.

A memorialized account preserves the deceased user’s online identity so that only confirmed can visit their profile to read about them, view photos and leave posts of remembrance.

When converts an account into a memorial, the deceased user no longer pops up in Facebook’s friend suggestions, thus we are not constantly reminded of their disappearance. The person’s profile automatically becomes private to everyone but confirmed friends. Personal identifiers and contact information are also removed to prevent hacking and to respect privacy.

To establish a memorial, a family member or friend completes a special contact form providing proof of death. This can include an obituary, news article or Internet link. Unlike other social media networks, Facebook allows non-family members to perform this task, which is helpful in situations where the deceased user’s are more Internet-savvy than family.


Just as Facebook allows users to request an account be deleted or memorialized when a family member or friend has passed away, Twitter allows for a permanent backup of the deceased user’s public tweets or a complete account deletion.

Profiles of deceased users will no longer appear in the “Who to Follow” suggestion box and previously scheduled tweets are not published. At present, the profiles of deceased users look exactly the same as those of living users and can be followed and listed.

To establish a permanent backup or to delete a deceased user’s Twitter account, a family member is required to submit the user name or profile page link along with proof of death in the form of a public obituary or news article. Twitter also advises, “Please note that we cannot allow access to the account or disclose other non-public information regarding the account.”


As one of the oldest social networks, MySpace has a deceased user policy that is more of a standardized policy of deletion rather than memorializing like Facebook or Twitter. In addition, MySpace does not adequately address privacy concerns and is susceptible to hacking.

To delete a MySpace profile, a family member must contact MySpace via e-mail with proof of death and the user’s unique identification number. A username or profile link is generally not acceptable.

“Unfortunately, we can’t let you access, edit or delete any of the content or settings on the user’s profile yourself, but we’ll be sure to review and remove any content you find objectionable,” reads MySpace’s policy.

This policy is not particularly helpful for older relatives that are not Internet-savvy and makes it almost impossible to remove a deceased user’s existence from MySpace.

Strangely enough, hackers may attempt to access a deceased user’s account without authorization. Contained on MySpace’s policy page is an admission that anyone with access to the deceased user’s email account can simply “retrieve the password through the ‘forgot password link’ and make necessary changes.”


Unlike the personal of Facebook, Twitter and MySpace where a family member or friend must make a death notification, anyone can notify LinkedIn about the profile of a deceased member.

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional business network with over 120 million members. According to LinkedIn, it will delete the profile of a deceased colleague, classmate or connection upon receipt of proof of death. There is no provision to memorialize the profile of a deceased LinkedIn user.

To delete the profile of a LinkedIn user, a “Verification of Death Form” must be submitted online, by fax to (402) 493-3548, or by mail to LinkedIn Corporation, 2029 Stierlin Ct., Mountain View, CA 94043. Proof of death in the form of a death certificate, obituary, news article or Internet link must be included.

LinkedIn is clear to point out that an email address registered to the deceased member’s account must be included. “Without this important piece of information, we will not be able to address your request.”

“You can argue that permanently archiving a digital life will allow some survivors to better reflect on the person and even discover new connections and insights that would have faded too quickly with only human memory,” concluded Forrester.

  1. Ever think about what will happen to your digital legacyonce when you pass away? With the arrival of the internet and social networks a new question have been raised. What happens to your digital assets when you passaway? Who takes care of it, your friends, family, love ones?
  2. This topic has come to be popular in recent years. Many sites including Hotmail and Gmail must first have proof that the user has passed away and must have some form of verification that the person wanting to accessthe account is next to the family. Once all the appropriate steps have beentaken then the site will only allow access to the account in the form of print outs of emails and messages, but will not give the actual password. Other sites have the same or alike policies. Your life online can still go on once you die.
  3. There are many things one can do to make sure once you die you can still take control over your digital accounts. In the past there would have been paper documentation to help track down all the accounts and any assets such as stock and share, but increasingly this is not longer the case.In the modern digital world we often hold any accounts with different PIN numbers, passwords and digital access code. We rarely think to give the information about what they are and how they can be accessed to anyone else.But now there is a service called WebWill that will allow use to do so.
  4. You can choose what you want to happen on different sites you belong to. One thing you can do when signing up for the service is you can deactivate or erase accounts.For example, on Facebook you can post a last statues update, change your profile picture, and you can erase your wall. Facebook has done a good job when looking at the issue.
  5. They have an option that one can choose a legacy contact and make one last post on your behalf when you die. The contact can respond to new friend request and post comments on your wall. Until now, when family or friends notified Facebook that a user has died, Facebook verified the death and‘memorialized’ the account, meaning the account could be viewed but it couldnot be edited or managed.
  6. The choices are of course specific to each site. After death you can also transfer your account details, such as password andusername, to someone close to you and leave them instructions if you havespecific wished while you use WebWill. The will is not necessarily a legal willbut more of a digital life insurance. It is definitely a discussion that’sneeded. Many people have already been thinking about the issue of life afterdeath. For example Corvida Raven explains the importance of the issue.
  7. The choices are of course specific to each site. After death you can also transfer your account details, such as password andusername, to someone close to you and leave them instructions if you havespecific wished while you use WebWill. The will is not necessarily a legal willbut more of a digital life insurance. It is definitely a discussion that’sneeded. Many people have already been thinking about the issue of life afterdeath. For example Corvida Raven explains the importance of the issue.
  8. Its never to lake to start thinking about what you wouldlike to happen to your life online once you die. There are many options tochoose from when analyzing the issue.




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