In the midst of grieving and handling various administrative matters after our loved ones have passed on, the last thing we will usually think about is the management of their social media accounts. This is understandably so and many may even assume that the inactivity of the accounts will prompt an automatic shut down by their respective platforms.
However, this may not necessarily be true— reports suggest that there are roughly 10 million to 30 million dead users on Facebook. Due to their inactivity, these social media accounts are more susceptible to identity theft by online hackers. In 2016, the Twitter account of the late David Carr, a New York Times reporter, was hacked and his 450,000 followers were alarmed to find promiscuous tweets generated by a sexbot after his death.
The David Carr incident is perhaps a prolific reminder that everyone can be hacked online; even the dead. Besides the security concerns involved, it is also a traumatic experience for the person’s friends and family and this is all the more why we should start taking action in tackling the issue of managing our loved ones’ social media accounts after they have passed on.
So what happens to your loved ones’ social media accounts after they passed on?
Currently, Facebook allows users to request for the memorialization of an account, which enables friends of the deceased to access the existing content while keeping the account locked away from potential hackers and scammers. This will require the friends and family of the deceased individual to submit a verification before the memorialisation takes place.
Alternatively, even before one’s passing, users can either appoint a legacy contact to look after their memorialized account or have Facebook automatically remove the account after one’s death. However, Facebook will block users from requesting to be the deceased’s legacy contact if it has not been established prior to death, making it impossible for friends and family to manage their accounts.
As many websites allow users to subscribe using Facebook, this means that even for these other platforms, friends and family are unlikely to access them and retrieve critical data.
Similar to Facebook, Instagram allows the memorialisation of accounts which retains the existing posted content.
However, Instagram does not have the legacy contact feature and no one will be able to make changes to the account's existing posts or information unless they are aware of the password beforehand.
In the event that a Twitter user has passed on, their immediate family members can only request for the termination of the account after having verified the death. However, even so, Twitter does not allow access to anyone regardless of their relationship to the deceased.
For Linkedin, it only allows for the complete removal of the deceased person’s account. While friends and family of the loved one can submit a Profile Removal form, they will have to provide multiple information to verify the person’s death before Linkedin reviews the requests.
According to sources online, the WeChat Customer Service claims that WeChat allows the legal heir of the dead user to retrieve funds which were deposited on the platform.
However, in regards to other personal data, WeChat does not have transparent procedures that allow friends and family of the deceased user to access the accounts.
Weibo states that family members can apply to claim the account of a deceased user after submitting proofs to authenticate the death.
However, it is unclear whether family members can manage these accounts and the extent to which they can access the information stored inside them.
To remove a deceased person’s Tumblr account and their blogs, their immediate family members may submit a request to Yahoo.
Again, due to privacy rules, Yahoo does not allow access to anyone regardless of their relationship with the dead user and thus, friends and family are often left with the resort of permanently deleting the account and all the other blogs.
Other platforms (WhatsApp, Telegram, Snapchat, TikTok)
These platforms do not have clear guidelines regarding the management of a dead user’s account and while one may hope to personally write to the respective platforms, chances are the accounts will just be permanently deleted. This brings us back to the problem that unless friends and family of the loved one have the password details beforehand, it is almost impossible for them to retrieve the data stored.
Using Timeliss to manage your digital estate
Aware of these issues, Timeliss seeks to provide an integrative platform where you can safely key in your personal details of your respective social media platforms. You can even indicate specific instructions you want your loved ones to undertake upon your passing. The access to this information is then shared to your loved ones based on conditions pre-set by you.
While this issue may be an afterthought for many individuals today, it is not too late for us to start planning for the future and Timeliss seeks to provide the support for you to securely and efficiently share critical details to your loved ones.