If there’s something we can surely take for granted, it’s death. We are born, we grow up, we have kids, we grow old and then the curtain goes down: that’s the circle of life and there’s nothing we can do about it. Furthermore, we also have to endure the always heartbreaking grieving process, something we’re never truly ready for. However, there are certain things that have changed since the old days, like one of the most predominant aspects of our modern life, social media. Billions of people are connected to social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., raising the question: what happens to our social media profiles and, most importantly, how is our privacy assured after our demise?
What Happens to My Online Footprints?
Dealing with our online footprint after death is in fact an important and rather disturbing question, as our social media profiles are open windows to our daily lives, often containing private information (that we shouldn’t be sharing to begin with), we might want to wipe it out for good once we’re gone. However, there are still no specific laws or rules addressing the above issue, which means that each company has complete freedom in their own policies regarding this matter.
For instance, by visiting your Facebook settings you can tell the company whether you want your profile to become a memorial account or you want it permanently deleted. Still, someone needs to communicate your death and this task mostly falls onto the shoulders of your family: they have to prove to Facebook you passed away by submitting certain documents, including an actual death certificate, via a special online form. After submission and the processing of the documents, Facebook proceeds according to the instructions you gave regarding the faith of your profile.
In case you want the profile to become a memorial account, where friends and family members can share their memories, the first thing Facebook does is deactivate your login information, meaning that no one will ever be able to use your account. Sensitive information such, as contacts, addresses and status updates, are removed. And even if you had a fully public profile, it is rendered visible to your friends only, meaning that your memorial page will not appear in Facebook searches.
However, if you give no instructions to the company or none of your close relatives interferes, your profile will remain active, visible and completely untouched, as Facebook doesn’t delete inactive accounts without proper notification.
Taking Preventive Measures While You’re Still Alive
Although it is a nice thing from Facebook to provide you the option to turn your profile into a memorial account, the fact that the company doesn’t delete accounts unless told so is the main reason why you need to take measures during your lifetime. If you’re present on any social media, make sure to visit your profile’s settings and choose what the company should do with your account once you’re gone. Likewise, you can always designate someone to manage your online information after you die, which is especially useful for those who have several profiles or often perform sensitive tasks like online banking. All you need is a list of your usernames and passwords either placed somewhere safe or with someone you trust. In case you have no one to trust, you can always turn to a number of special companies who can provide you online-based storage and release whatever info you choose to whoever you want. The problem is that usually you have to pay for these kinds of services and you might still run into the possibility of someone hacking and accessing your data.
Last but not least, you can adopt simpler preventive measures. In order to avoid having someone snooping on your data, always delete your browser’s history, cookies and whatnot. Also, make sure to perform all your social media activities under VPN protection, as not only you’ll be much safer from prying eyes, but you can also rest assured that all your information is encrypted.