• David Hurn

The world’s biggest virtual graveyard

A YouGov survey, published in early November 2018, revealed that 26% of people would like the content of their social media accounts to pass to their loved ones once they have died. The survey showed that 67% of respondents wanted their social media accounts taken offline after their death and only 7% wanted them to remain online.

Each social network has different rules regarding what happens to your account when you die. Facebook and Instagram will memorialise a person’s page once the death has been reported or they will remove the account if an immediate family member makes a request. Facebook has also added settings which allow you to plan for what happens to your account after you die. You can set a legacy contact to manage aspects of your page once it’s been memorialised. Twitter will delete any account if there is no activity or logins for six months. Google’s Inactive Account Manager allows you to make plans for what happens to your account after you die. You can choose to grant loved one’s access to your information or request that your account is automatically deleted.

Dead Social’s goodbye and legacy builder tool permits its users to schedule posts after they have passed away. Users can choose text or video posts and assign a digital Executor to send the message once they have died. Other networks are looking to create different ways for us to live on virtually after we’ve died. ‘Eternime’ collects your thoughts, stories and memories and creates an avatar that looks and speaks in your manner. Before you die, you begin speaking to the avatar so that they learn about you and your personality.

Digital legacies can cause issues linked to privacy rules and data protection regulations, highlighting the question of who ‘owns’ your virtual life. Online assets are being viewed as an increasingly important subject and some people are even including clauses about them in their Wills. It is not clear what happens to data collected during a lifetime after someone passes away, which could potentially cause upset to family members if there is any uncertainty.

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