Three Facebook users die every minute, leading to millions of worldwide accounts that have deceased owners. Will the account remain as it were, frozen in time? Is that how the person who passed would have preferred it? A new hot topic is posthumous “online reputation management,” which looks at how friends and family can retain control of the online legacies of the dead.
“While many people prepare a will to manage what happens to their possessions after their death, most have likely not considered what happens to their digital information,” said Jeff Quipp, the founder of Canadian internet marketing company Search Engine People. “Photos from wild parties might not be the lasting impression a person may wish to leave when they die.”
Jeff recommends that the executor of the will also assume responsibility for managing the online legacy and offers some basic tips for some of the more common online presences:
Email accounts: With email providers such as Gmail, in the event of death, the account can stay open forever. Next of kin, however, will be allowed to access emails and can request to have it deleted. If Hotmail accounts are left inactive for a period of time, the email account along with all the information will be eventually deleted.
For both email providers, in order to access the email account, next of kin will need to supply specific information. This includes the family member’s full name; contact information; a verifiable email address; the Gmail email address of the deceased person; and proof of death.
Facebook: This popular social networking site will delete the page if a family requests it or turn it into a memorial page by filling out a form on Facebook. Facebook will then remove sensitive information on the account like status updates and will only allow current friends to access the page.
MySpace: This site does not allow family members to edit or delete content. They can, however, request to have the account deleted by emailing account care and providing documentation such as a death certificate.
Twitter: The user’s account can be removed by family members who provide the required information and can help save a backup of public tweets.