The digital dead

social media profiles
07 Nov 2022

Where do our social media profiles go when we die?

We all know that our social media profiles remain active after we are gone. Do you want them to be available for your family and friends to remember you? Or do you want them, and all your data, deleted? These are latest additions to the questions we have to ask when planning our estates.

In the next 50 years, the dead will outnumber the living on Facebook. This is according to a study by Oxford University in order to understand more about what happens to our social media profiles when we die.

We might not be worried about it now, after all life is for living, but what can really be done with our profiles and personal data when we are no longer around? The reality is quite a lot.

Depending on the platform, all the personal data contained in your profiles could be up for grabs to the highest bidder. You might think that you have nothing they want, but even if you never shared your banking details or crypto assets online, the “big data” gathered by long-term accounts like Google and Facebook, can be worth a lot to the right buyer, according to another study published in AI&Society.

What is “big data”?

Big data is the long-term data collected over a period of years, including your activity on interactive applications like games and creator apps. It sounds like science fiction, but that kind of information can be processed by artificial intelligence to find patterns that can explain how you learnt, changed, won, lost, and even when you gave up. It can even show how good you were at a particular game, or if you were a talented artist. All of which is valuable, depending on the field. Certain data can be used to improve learning experiences, teach us about human behaviour and even help to price anything that you may have produced, if it is decided that you were quite skilled.

You might be asking yourself how that is possible. The tech is quite complicated, but how the data is available is simple: Our rights to privacy expire when we die. Unless we make specific provision for what is now called our “digital heritage”.

Making a digital will

Our digital lives are so closely linked to our physical lives that we have to ensure that we take equal care of both, when they come to an end. Estate planning must now include sections on who will have access to your passwords, account management and what you want done with your social media profiles and your data.

Naming your executor now includes the consideration of who you feel will be a responsible decision to manage your Memorialised Facebook page.

What is a Memorialised Facebook page?

A Memorialised page is Facebook’s (now Meta) response to the question of what to do with the profile after someone dies. In their Help Section, you can now choose to have your profile deleted or memorialised. If you choose the memorial, you can select a Legacy contact who will then have access to manage that page. They won’t have access to your account or be able to post as you. The same is true for Meta’s other popular platform Instagram.

Twitter however, has not set up this function yet, but will deactivate the account upon request of proven estate executors.

Google has its own variation too. Your Google Account settings can include an Inactive Account Manager who will be able to look after your account, and this includes the Google suite of applications.

All these measures are in place to ensure that you have more control over your digital legacy. It is therefore recommended that you take a moment to add these details to your Will or your Red File, so that you can rest assured that your data will be handled the way you want it to be.

With Legal&Tax you’re not alone

Article sourced from Legal&Tax.

Written by Paula Thekiso-Mahlangu – Head of Claims at Legal&Tax.

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(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
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