What is your digital legacy?

Most of us leave digital footprints every day…we’re Tweeting our opinions, Facebooking our friends and Instagramming pictures of our delicious meals and sunshine filled holidays, whilst LinkedIn showcases our careers and contacts.

What happens to these accounts when we die? 

If your account is left as it is, there is the prospect that it will be abused by a hacker, which is distressing for your contacts on that social media platform.

 
Social media providers have different ways of dealing with the death of a user, and we recommend you familiarise yourself with these and put the appropriate steps in place.

You may wish to nominate a digital legacy contact, to whom you will provide the details of which social media accounts you have and the names in which they are held.  Alternatively, you might leave a note of this information with your Will, to enable your personal representatives to deal with your online presence when the time comes.

You don’t need to leave log-in details, and social media providers won’t release this either, so your personal representatives will not be able to access your private messages or profile settings after your death.

Google
This covers all Google products, including Gmail and YouTube.

Users can set up the Inactive Account Manager, which will trigger a notification to a specific contact when the user has been inactive for a specified period of time.

Alternatively, the user can elect to automatically have their accounts deleted after the specified time, which will then ensure the username cannot be reused or reactivated.

Instagram
The account of a deceased person can be reported to Instagram.  As with all social media accounts, the person reporting the death must show that they are an immediate family member or the personal representative of the deceased, and show proof.

An Instagram account can be memorialised, keeping the account secure and allowing other users to continue to view it but not to comment on it.  As with other social media providers, they will not release log-in details.

Unlike Facebook, however, users cannot inform Instagram in advance of death whether they wish to have the account deleted or memorialised.  This is up to the person who informs Instagram of the user having passed away.

Pinterest
There is no advance directive option on Pinterest to allow users to set out their wishes regarding post death administration of the account.

It is entirely up to the personal representative, or a close family member, to contact Pinterest , prove the user has passed away, and request deactivation of the account.

Facebook
When a Facebook user passes away, the account remains active.  This does mean that it could be hacked.  When Facebook receives confirmation that a user has passed away, their account can be memorialised.  This means it continues to exist with the same privacy settings and people can post on the page, which will have the word ‘Remembering’ next to the profile name.

If the user has appointed a legacy contact, this person can administer your account when it has been memorialised. This means they can post to the page, deal with friend requests, and edit the profile image on the page.

Alternatively, users can elect to have their account deleted.  When Facebook receives notification of their death, all the information, photos and posts will be removed from Facebook and the information will no longer be accessible.  A legacy contact may also give this instruction on behalf of the deceased user.

Twitter
There is no advance directive option on Twitter to allow users to set out their wishes regarding post death administration of the account.

It is entirely up to the personal representative, or a close family member, to contact Twitter, prove the user has passed away, and request deactivation of the account.

LinkedIn
On LinkedIn, a third party can report the death of a user.  The user cannot make provision in advance for what should happen to the account.

There is a form to complete, which requires information such as the date of death, the relationship of the user to the person making the report, and any additional information.

On receiving the form, LinkedIn will review the submission and take appropriate action to close and remove the user’s online profile.