When people die, family and friends will know what they want done with their offline assets – the physical things they own – through their will, but what about their online assets?
It’s estimated that more than 32 million people in the UK now have Facebook profiles (growing 2% every year), so what should happen to that digital footprint when those people are no longer around?
A survey has found one in four (24%) of Brits would want a “data death” when they pass away, meaning all social media and email accounts associated with them are automatically removed from the internet.
The survey, by LifeSearch, found 12% of us are worried about the fate of our digital accounts – either because of the burden of leaving loved ones to get the accounts removed or the embarrassment of them seeing private messages.
Nearly half of us worry that social media and email accounts could be hacked and upset loved ones, and 40% don’t want private messages or data to become available to a wider audience.
But the survey also uncovered that the vast majority (92%) of us aren’t having these conversations with loved ones and informing them of our wishes.
Currently, when a person dies, there is often a lengthy process for friends or family to claim ownership of their social media account. Processes differ between providers, but some include having to provide death certificates.
“Avoiding essential conversations about our digital life after death could leave our loved ones locked out.”
Facebook gives you the option to ‘memorialise’ the account or remove it altogether. Memorialised accounts are sold as a place for “friends and family to gather and share memories after a person has passed away”. The word ‘remembering’ is shown next to the person’s name on their profile.
Memorialised profiles don’t appear in public spaces, such as in suggestions for people you may know or birthday reminders. Friends can share memories on the memorialised timeline, but no one will be able to log in to the account to post as the deceased. Once someone has died, Facebook won’t provide login information for someone else’s account.
Alternatively, verified immediate family members can request the removal of a loved one’s account from Facebook. Before you die you can appoint a ‘legacy contact’ to look after the memorialised account or choose to have the profile permanently deleted from Facebook.
“Understandably, this is something that not many of us are keen to discuss,” said Emma Walker from LifeSearch. “But avoiding essential conversations about our digital life after death could leave our loved ones locked out, unable to take control or at the mercy of hackers should the worst happen.”