When a loved one passes away, friends and family may still have his or
her belongings or physical reminders of the life he or she led. When you
hold on to a cherished photo or gift from your deceased friend, you give
yourself a chance to remember his or her legacy when the moment is right.
Family members handle the distribution of property according to the person's
individual will so that the people closest to the deceased have something
to remember him or her by.
But in today's society, you may also have to encounter issues of property
and privacy online. With billions of internet users going online every
day, each person possesses a host of information and data on sites such
as a private email account, Facebook, or Twitter. What happens to all
of that information when a person dies?
We’ve researched internet policy for many social media and storage
sites. Read this post to find out how internet sites handle death and
what you can do to protect your loved one's online presence after
he or she passes on.
Personal Email Accounts
How you should handle email messages for your deceased loved one depends
on his or her service provider. Both Gmail and Hotmail have policies that
allow family members access to the deceased’s account.
Google also allows people to designate an "inactive account manager"
so that all account information and data can transfer to a third party
in the event of death or emergency. You can also contact Google directly
to close an account.
Yahoo!, however, claims the right to maintain privacy even after death.
Their policy excludes survivorship as an adequate reason to gain access
to the deceased's email account, except when forced by a legal subpoena.
For all other email services, read the fine print of the terms and conditions,
and contact the email provider directly for more information.
YouTube gives friends and family of deceased users to access account information
under specific circumstances stated on their support page. Since YouTube
partners with Google to create user accounts, the same rules about a designated
"inactive account manager" apply for YouTube as well.
User policy for Facebook's billions of followers provides two different
options for profiles after death.
Facebook gives family and friends the option of transforming the deceased
person's profile into a memorial page. This page type resembles the
current profile-but doesn't allow for more friend requests. Only the
existing friends will gain access to the memorial.
A memorial page also removes status updates and contact information. Instead
of logging into the account, friends and family can voice their memories
and love by writing on the wall. To notify Facebook of a person's
death, contact Facebook directly and comply with their instructions.
Alternatively, friends or family members can opt to deactivate or delete
a deceased person’s account by providing Facebook with proof of
death, either in an obituary or a news article. Once you fill out the
special contact form and supply proof of death, Facebook should delete
the account within 90 days.
Much like Google's policy, Facebook allows users to assign a “legacy
contact” to manage their profile after death. This designated person
has access to all photos, videos, and contact information shared with
Facebook over the years, and he or she can add or delete friends and update
account information. However, if your friend or family member did not
select a legacy contact during his or her life, you won’t be able
to alter this information after death.
If you don't notify Facebook or select one of the above courses of
action, your loved one's online profile will remain the same. Friends
may receive future notifications and reminders about this person's
birthday and other activities, and strangers can request to connect.
Keep these issues in mind when you decide whether to take online action
to maintain or remove a Facebook profile.
If you want to deactivate a Twitter account for a deceased person, contact
Twitter Support. You'll need to provide evidence of death from an
estate executor or a death certificate, and then Twitter will shut down
the account in question.
gain access to sensitive information from a private Twitter account even
after a person's death.
Data storage start-up Dropbox does not specify a policy for transferring
account information in the case of death. However, their terms of service
indicate that they will delete any inactive account 90 days after the
If you want to preserve your loved one's photos or documents before
they get deleted, contact Dropbox directly.
Internet companies provide you with several options to manage a loved one's
online presence after death-even if he or she neglected to leave you with
login and password information. Remember these tips when you want to create
a memorial or protect the privacy of your deceased friend or family member.
And read the rest of our blog for more suggestions on coping with grief and loss.