SOCIAL NETWORKING – WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I’M GONE
Over the past few years, people have been joining the frenzy and have opened accounts with social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. I am sure that over the next few years, other such sites will be developed with most of those already having accounts opening more. But what happens to all those accounts and all that personal information once you have departed this earth?
This question has been increasingly asked by those who have been left behind after their loved one has departed. I can attest to such a situation because when my sister-in-law passed away a couple of years ago, she had a Facebook account which we did not know how to delete because at that time Facebook accounts could not be deleted. The company has since changed its policy regarding a deceased person’s account.
As of 2010, Facebook would do one of two things – it will either close the account and delete all the personal information associated with that account or it will change the account to one that will act as a memorial for the family member. That policy may have changed since then.
Facebook also maintained a policy that no log-in information will be shared or provided to ‘anyone’ even members of the deceased’s family. If Facebook is not notified of an account holder’s passing, it will do nothing and the site will remain active as if that person is still living. Therefore, it is imperative that if the family of the deceased wants to have certain information that may appear on the site to be removed, or the person’s page removed itself, the family must notify Facebook accordingly. Other social networking sites have been addressing this issue as it has been coming up with some forming similar policies as those at Facebook, while others are not doing anything. It is a situation that, I think, over time will have to be addressed by all social networking websites.
Another issue that is popping up after someone passes away is with e-mail accounts. An email account with Gmail will continue as if that person is still living until such time as member of the deceased’s family produces evidence that the Google account holder is no longer living, i.e. a death certificate. Once the death certificate is presented to Google, the family member will be able to gain access to the site. The family can also request that the email account be deleted and associated emails destroyed. Hotmail will do the same as Gmail, however Yahoo will not allow anyone access to an account holder’s email. The only thing Yahoo will do regarding access is to delete the account. Again, evidence of the account holder’s passing is required for the account to be deleted.
Some of the sites do have an automatic deletion process should the account become inactive for a period of time. For example, when an account is inactive for more than a year, Hotmail will automatically delete the account. The bottom line here is that it is important to know what type of accounts you have and to make sure that your family knows of those accounts so when you do pass, they will be able to address any concerns that come up. Finally, it is also very important that you have a will in place so that your family knows your wishes regarding your property and also how your social networking sites are to be handled.