Social media has become a large part of many people’s lives. But what happens to those accounts once a person has passed away?
Sure, we know this isn’t a fun question, but in today’s digital age, it’s certainly an important one. And, unfortunately, there is no simple answer–each social media platform has its own policy.
With some, you can control what happens ahead of time by, essentially, creating a social media will. With others, account control can’t be handled in advance.
We’ve gathered the policies for each popular site so you can make decisions now for the future.
Action you can take now
Facebook and Google let users to make decisions regarding the future state of their accounts.
- Memorialized Page – Facebook lets users to choose whether they would like their account to be memorialized or deleted after their death. If a memorialized account is chosen, “remembering” will be displayed next to the person’s name. Also, memories can be shared to the page, content shared by the user will remain visible, and no one will be able to log in to the account.
- Legacy contact – Facebook allows you to set up a legacy contact who will look after your account once it is memorialized. The legacy contact is able to write a pinned (a post that is manually selected to stay at the top of one’s Timeline) post to your timeline (share a final message), respond to friend requests, and update the profile picture and cover photo.
- Deactivation of an account – If a legacy isn’t set up in advance, Facebook only requires proof that one is an immediate family member of the deceased before and account can be deactivated.
- Inactive Account Manager – Google allows users to set up a “timeout period.” This means if you haven’t signed-in to your account in the set time period, your account will appear as inactive. Before this happens, Inactive Account Manager will alert you by email or text message before timeout period ends. In addition, Google allows users to select a trusted contact, who would be able to download data once the account has been inactive.
- Deactivation of an account – Google requires a death certificate as well as the full header and content of an email from the Gmail address in question in order to deactivate an account. Here is a form that is necessary to submit before any changes are made to a deceased user’s account.
Action to take later
Not all social media platforms offers ways for users to create a “will”, instead there are ways for loved one’s to handle their accounts after they pass away. Here’s what you need to know:
- Twitter requires the user’s death certificate as well as the individual’s ID who is requesting the deactivation. However, if an account is inactive for six months, the account will become automatically deactivated. Click here for the necessary form.
- Twitter will not provide access to account information to anyone regardless of their relationship.
- LinkedIn requires the member’s name, email address, company they worked for, link to their profile as well as the relationship between the person making the request and the user in order to remove a person’s profile. Click here for the necessary form. If the account isn’t deactivated, it will not do so on its own over time.
- Pinterest requires documentation of the passing as well as proof of the relationship between the person making the request and the user in order to deactivate an account. If the account isn’t deactivated, it will not do so on its own over time. Click here to access more information.
If all this wasn’t enough, Mashable has a helpful infographic you might find useful. Copy and Paste the link to see more http://mashable.com/2014/06/24/social-media-death/#lECa4XFeEaqF
Guest Blogger: Ann McGrail
Ann is a PR Intern at TDS Telecom and a Journalism and Communication Arts student at UW-Madison.