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What happens to my online accounts when I die?

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socialAre you aware of the sheer size of your online presence? That pile of emails, social media activities, digital photos, and bank records that are growing everyday. What happens to this digital footprint once your life is over? Will your online accounts disappear after you are gone? Or will others still be able to send you messages and check out your holiday pictures even though you’re no longer walking the Earth?

The latter seems to be true when no actions are taken. Various websites, including Google and Facebook, handle the rule that nobody can get into your account unless they have the correct login information, even when you’re dead. “For privacy reasons, we do not allow others to access a deceased user’s account,” a Facebook spokesperson once told NBC News. So, if passwords are never shared, most of your accounts will be around for a long time without anyone being able to touch them. Maybe you’re OK with that. If not, you can influence the future of your online content by creating a digital will.

Although it’s not yet that common, it’s recommendable to cover requests regarding your digital assets in a statement. In this document you can specify how you would like your online accounts to be handled after you die: which ones should stay live and which ones should be deleted. There’s even the possibility to convert a Facebook page into a “memorial” one, allowing friends and family to leave posts on your wall in remembrance, but limiting access to your current Facebook “friends”. Most importantly, appoint a person you trust (and who is technological savvy) as online executor and don’t forget to keep up a list for him or her with an overview of your accounts, usernames and passwords.

You can also take it one step further and continue your online presence from beyond the grave. Yes, for those who desire a digital afterlife, there is the “LivesOn” app. ­“When your heart stops beating, you’ll keep tweeting,” says the new application’s tagline. Based on an analysis of your Twitter feed while alive, the app will keep on creating and posting updates that “could have been you.” Although the service might be delightful to those who aim for some sort of life after death assurance, for many the possibility to be contacted by a deceased loved one is rather disturbing.

On a concluding note, the issue of digital immortality does seem to be an important topic to think about. We easily create many online identities during our lives, but should they outlive us and become virtually constructed versions of ourselves? Whatever your preferences are, make the appropriate arrangements to be sure that when you die, your digital legacy gets the same attention your physical assets get.

digital immortality, facebook for dead people

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