Have you ever thought of what will happen to all that personal data you keep feeding to Facebook, Google and Twitter in the name of Social Media when you die? We keep storing our documents onto the cloud on different platforms like Dropbox and Google drive, let alone the millions of pictures we post on Facebook or Google Plus. What happens to all that data and all those social media accounts you have accumulated in your life time. Perhaps it’s time you think of writing your social media Will. Unless you want the State or Social Media Platforms take control of it.
Most people especially here in Africa die without a will, and with the increasing adoption of social media, the idea of designating whether their information goes in a will just doesn’t really work. In the US the Government wants to pass a Bill where the state will come in and say that all your emails, twitter posts , Facebook messages are just exposed when you die.
I think that really strikes a tough cord with those of us who consider the privacy of fellow human beings to be a top priority. The question this raises is, Will a dead person mind about their online privacy issues anyway? The Answer is two sided, but may be those who he/she has left behind might mind . Let alone the legacy one wants to leave behind when they die.
So what I would prefer is rather than these States coming in and set the default standard of someone’s privacy to zero to allow the users and the custodians and the services that they interact with to kind of take hold and get the first crack at what the user’s privacy should be. This is better than setting the privacy bar at the bare minimum. And make life easier for a couple of state lawyers to decide who you would bequeath your data to.
Would you allow your family to get access to your social media profile when you pass on?
Of course there are mixed reviews when it comes to privacy even when dead. For example you will find women/ men who die with secrets of having a child out of wedlock and never tell their partners even on their death bed. But you could find that she/ he wrote it somewhere in their online journals. Am sure most of the people reading this article have not even remotely thought of writing and social media will since this is a brave new world for us.
According to White Page fx, who have a great infographic about the digital demise, indicate that 30 million Facebook users died in the first eight years of its existence. So the questions to ask yourself, are
Most of these social media platforms try to provide ways of helping one remove another person’s profile in case they die. Google provides an inactive account manager, Facebook has its own version of how you can report a deceased person’s profile and also twitter has something similar. Trust me this is all confusing and the hoops you have to jump to succeed to remove your beloved one from social media is hectic.
What will happen to my Digital Mortality?
Writing about this has definitely me think strongly about my digital mortality. I would encourage those who have very active online lives to write a Social Media will, of course after writing your regular none digital Will.
Let’s take an example of legendary rapper Tupac Shakur who allegedly died in 1996 and the man has been releasing Albums almost for the past twenty years and two years ago he ends up as a hologram at a concert I mean such digital presence is astonishing. These are surely the extreme limits of what you can do to one’s digital life. So is the only way forward for the average Joe who is not an international celebrity, is to write a social media will to control their digital footprint and identity after death?
Privacy After Death
There is a difference between granting access to a trusted fiduciary and making private information public. As I stated earlier, long before the digital age people died with embarrassing information. Just because a fiduciary may have access to that information it doesn’t mean that information will get revealed to the public or the family members. This entrusted party (fiduciary) must be somebody who can delete that information when appropriate close those accounts. And the issues is not whether your information remains private after you gone, but who decides whether your information remains private. As it stands right now the internet companies -Yahoo, Google and Facebook – they decide through their lengthy terms of service agreements who has access to that information and whether it remains public or private. This is like giving a box of your personal letters to a friend and instructing them to burn them up when you die.
It is important to note that the iPad is only 4 years old, the iPhone is only 7 years old and Google is not even old enough to vote. When humanity was creating these innovative services, people weren’t think about users end of life. But we are now, and these geeks are creating new tools to ease specific control to what happens to users accounts when they die with reference to the links of the different social media platforms I just detailed above.
The social media industry is evolving very quickly, and I would rather see the industry give users the control rather than having Governments determine what happens to my emails and other social media profiles when I die.
These companies should respect the privacy interest of all users and give users more control to their information, so the best thing is for Facebook, Google, Twitter and the likes to allow users write their Social Media testaments and entrust them with people of their choosing. What do you think, would you consider writing a social media will?