In the 21st century, social media is a big part of people’s lives. From sharing photos to job applications to establishing relationships and communicating personal and professional information. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp are big aspects of modern culture.
However, how many people have considered what happens to their social media accounts when they die? The thought can be difficult because, thinking of death is very unpleasant, but the social media accounts of deceased users can often be a source of controversy.
Firstly, let’s look at the options, according to the Dailymail website, “In most countries, families have default access to a deceased person’s data. And can decide to terminate the account following their submission of the relevant documentation or keep it active as a memento or gesture of remembrance.”
IOL.co.za reports that different social media platforms offer different services for deceased users:
- “Facebook allows your account to be “memorialised”. This, in essence, means that your Facebook page will remain active for friends and family to visit and post on.
- Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, also allows for either memorialisation or the closure of your account.
- Twitter does not allow memorialisation but will suspend your account if it has been inactive for six months, or will close your account when requested to do so by a family member after it has been provided with certain documents.
- If you have a Yahoo! email account, the only option is a termination request to be sent to Yahoo!
- LinkedIn allows only for your account to be closed and your profile to be removed. Your death can be reported by a family member or a colleague who identifies your profile to LinkedIn.”
It is important to note that in South African law, there is no inherent right to privacy after your death.
This can cause a number of compromising situations. Firstly, it would compromise the right to privacy of some individuals that have personal information they elected to share only with the deceased and no one else.
The conflict of a family wanting to use a deceased family member’s social media account to remember them, conflicting with a third party that shared private information with the deceased and would not like it accessed, is starting to become common worldwide.
The big takeaway from all this information is that South Africans need to have their wishes about what to do with their social media accounts in writing.
In addition to these complications, your digital inheritance can be an opportunity for you to become a victim of identity theft and cyber fraud, even after your death.
Multiple syndicates using personal information to open accounts, take out loans and set up illegal businesses often use information stolen from social media accounts of deceased users.
To conclude our overview on this very uncomfortable yet important topic, South Africans must understand the key to avoiding situations like this or at least mitigating the damage from them lies in preparing for the worst.
Here are two important tips Techtron recommends on the best way to secure your digital inheritance:
- Let your intentions about your digital presences (afterlife) be clear to your family.
- Should you wish your accounts continue to be active even after you die, inform your family of what you expect from the social media network following your death.
If you communicate your wishes clearly, there is no chance of misinterpretation by your family or anyone else.