Death and the internet
When people die, they leave certain things behind, including all their online profiles, email accounts, and social media information. While some sites, including Facebook and Twitter, have policies related to death, accounts often remain dormant until deleted due to inactivity or family or friends take action. As the internet age progresses it will come to a point where inactive accounts of deceased people will outnumber those of active users; all providers of digital services will need to provide specific policies and accounts' management tools.
Gmail and Hotmail allow the email accounts of the deceased to be accessed, provided certain requirements are met. Yahoo! Mail will not provide access, citing the No Right of Survivorship and Non-Transferability clause in the Yahoo! terms of service. In 2005 Yahoo! was ordered by the Probate Court of Oakland County, Michigan to release emails of deceased US Marine Justin Ellsworth to his father, John Ellsworth.
Facebook's policy on death is to turn the deceased user's profile into a memorial, "as a place where people can save and share their memories of those who've passed." Memorializing of a profile involves: the deceased user no longer showing up in the "Suggestions" box on the right-hand side of the homepage; the privacy setting is altered so that only confirmed friends can view the profile and search for it; contact information and status updates are removed; no one is able to log into the account in the future.
In order to memorialize deceased person's account, a special contact form must be filled out. In this contact from, a proof of death must be provided, such as an obituary or news article. Both family members and non-family members are allowed to submit this form.
Dropbox does not have a specific policy for accounts of deceased people; the general Terms of Service applies, it states that inactive accounts will be deleted after 90 days since the last login.
In April 2013, Google announced the creation of the 'Inactive Account Manager', which allows users of Google services to set up a process in which ownership and control of inactive accounts is transferred to a delegated user.
MySpace will allow a memorial to be set up to honor deceased users.
Upon request, Twitter can close accounts and provide archives of public Tweets for deceased users. Family members are required to submit a formal request to Twitter's Trust and Safety department. You must have a copy of the death certificate or they will not take action despite obituary articles and news clips. This has changed and now twitter only allows account deactivation for the deceased.
Users who have made at least several hundred edits or are otherwise known for substantial contributions to Wikipedia can be noted at a central memorial page. Wikipedia user pages are ordinarily fully edit-protected after the user has died, to prevent vandalism.
- When, if ever, will Facebook contain more profiles of dead people than of living ones?
- Accessing a deceased person's mail
- How to request data from a deceased user's account?
- Dropbox Terms of Service
- "Plan your digital afterlife with Inactive Account Manager". Google Blog. 11 April 2013. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
- "Google RIP: What Inactive Account Manager means for your will". The Telegraph. 16 April 2013. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
- "Wikipedia:Deceased Wikipedians/Guidelines". Wikipedia. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
- Fix account problems: Obtaining a deceased person's YouTube videos, retrieved 13 July 2014
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- Cheng, Jacqui (2010-03). "Death and social media: what happens to your life online?" Ars Technica. Retrieved 2010-4-20.
- Silver, Paul (2009-02). "Death and Social Media" Paul Silver's Blog. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
- Wolf, Nadine (2010-04). "The digital afterlife: what happens in social media when we die? Part I". Topics In Digital Media Spring 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-20
- Jeffries, Duncan (30 September 2009). "Preparing for the digital afterlife". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 June 2010.
- Wortham, Jenna (July 17, 2010). "As Facebook Users Die, Ghosts Reach Out". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 July 2010.