Most of us today have two parts to our lives on in the real world and another in the digital or virtual world. The content we create, store or share in the digital world, our email accounts, cloud storage and social accounts have become more personal and sensitive as our digital life expands. With a lot of them containing personal, financial and other private information, it is very important to take control and decide what happens to these accounts in your afterlife. Who has access to the data, owns the accounts, will your family or friends be able to access them, or will it self destruct?
A lot of this lies in your control and this article should help you plan your digital afterlife in case you decide to kick the bucket.
Similar to choosing a nominee for your bank accounts or life insurance, most digital services allow you to choose the person or people who will be handed over the access to your complete online account or parts of it after the user has deceased or the account has been inactive for sustained period. Below is a list of common online services and how to manage these setting for them.
Google calls this feature an ‘Inactive Account Manager’. What the service essentially does is to wait a set amount of time (3,6,12 or 18 months) chosen by you after which Google will share your data with one or upto 10 people you have chosen to receive your data.
The data that will be shared shared will include data from Gmail, Hangouts, YouTube, Drive, Google Photos etc. among the many services Google has. You can customise which person receives what data from you, if not all your data.
Once your account becomes inactive and the chosen people given access to your Google data, they have upto three months to download your data. Google also gives you the option of deleting your account, which if selected, will happen after the three month period given to the people you’ve chosen to download your data.
You can visit this link here to access the Inactive Manager section of your account.
Now this is not the end. What if someone was not aware of this feature, had not set it up and passed away?
In such cases you could place a request with Google, which under certain circumstances will provide content from the deceased user's account after careful review of the request. Google will not share passwords or other login details of the deceased person, but you could request for their account to be closed, access their data or transfer funds that are there in their Google account.
Microsoft does not have an automated system in place that will help you transfer your account or pre-select the people who can access your data with Microsoft services after your death.
Instead, Microsoft has in place a ‘Next of Kin’ process that will give access to emails, their attachments, address book, and messenger contact list, to your next of kin after an authentication process. According to Microsoft’s website, the content of the account will be shipped to the next of kin on DVDs.
Microsoft will not provide the login credentials or allow for transferring ownership of the account to the next of kin.
Facebook, being a social media service, approaches afterlife slightly differently. As a user you could set your account up for deletion after Facebook has been informed about your death and it has been verified you can setup your page to be converted into a ‘Memorialized’ account for friends and family to gather and share memories of yours.
For the latter option, you will also have to choose in advance a ‘legacy contact’, a person you have chosen to look after your account once it has been memorialized.
You can set this up from the Settings menu of your Facebook account under the subhead ‘Memorialization Settings’.
In case a user has not set their account with either of the above options, family or friends could request Facebook to convert their page into a memorialized account. In case you want to delete a deceased person;s account, only a verified family member will be allowed to place that request. In either case, Facebook will not share the login credentials of the account with anyone, including verified family or friends.
You can access the entire FAQ section provided by Facebook on this here.
Being part of the same parent company, Instagram’s policies are similar to that of Facebook. After your death the account can either be memorialised once Instagram is notified, or an immediate family member can request that the account be deleted. Bothe requests will have to go through a verification process.
Unlike Facebook, Instagram does not have a feature to pre-select someone as your ‘Legacy contact’.
Twitter currently allows for a request the deactivation of a deceased person’s account. The request could placed by a person authorized to act on behalf of the estate of a deceased person, or by a verified immediate family member. You could also submit a request via their privacy form to deactivate the account.
The service does not allow you to transfer your account after you have passed away or pre-select some to get access to your account. Also, Twitter will not provide account access to anyone regardless of their relationship to the deceased, according to their policy document.
LikedIn has in place a process to allow for the deletion of a deceased user’s account. You can place a request for the same via their help section which requires you to provide details of you as well as proof of death. Only once the information and documentation have been verified, will the account will be removed.
Pinterest allows for relatives or family members to request for the deactivation of a deceased person’s account. You could place a request for the same via the help center to initiate the process which will be done only after verification.
As in the case of most other services, Pinterest will not share any personal or login information the company has of the user.
Snapchat also allows for requesting the deletion of a user’s account who has passed away. You can place a request for the same via their support page and will be done after verification of the documents submitted.
Snapchat will not provide the login credentials of the account or allows for the transfer of the account.
According to Apple, a user’s Apple ID and content of their account are non-transferable. The Apple ID or account may be terminated and all its contents deleted upon submission and verification of the proof of death. You can visit Apple’s support page to initiate a request for the same.
All the services listed above will not share the login credentials or transfer accounts to others as there is always a chance of misinformation, impersonation or other such security related issues.