Although each individual’s growing online presence can be a bit overwhelming while we are here on earth, have you considered what happens to your digital presence when you are no longer living? I think most folks would be shocked to learn that, under current law in many states, your heirs could be committing a crime by using what passwords you left them after you have passed away. Right now, it’s a legal gray zone… The US Computer Fraud and AbuseAct, created in 1986, makes it unlawful to “intentionally access” a computer without authorization and, then, obtain information from that access. Many propose that loved ones should get access to everything online immediately after one’s death unless otherwise specified in a will. Yet, as estate-planning lawyers have started battling to change this, it’s sparked quite a debate about who owns what on the Internet, who can access what in your digital afterlife and how to plan this transition.
Where can YOU start and what can YOU do to address this situation?
- - Facebook: In January 2014, Facebook altered its digital afterlife policy to turn a deceased person’s page into “memorial mode” and make it publicly available, but shutting down a deceased person’s Facebook account requires the user’s birth certificate, death certificate and proof the person submitting the request is the lawful representative of that deceased user.
- - Google: Google Inactive Account Manager allows you to choose a trusted contact who will be notified by email and phone when your account has been inactive after a specified length of time and who can also be given access to the Google accounts you choose.
- - Twitter: In its website’s support area, Twitter offers a contact form to assist in deactivating, not transferring, the deceased’s account.
- - Yahoo: In America, Yahoo accounts are nontransferable but can be terminated after submitting a detailed request; alternatively, in Japan, Yahoo has created “Yahoo Ending” to send an email the user has prepared to as many as 200 addresses and open a “memorial space” board for people to leave condolence messages.
- - What do you envision for your social media content after you die?
- - What would you like to happen to your blog when you die?
- - Do you want your Digital Executor to make an announcement online?
- - Where would you like your obituary posted?
- - Would you like a guestbook activated on your website?
- - Would you like your website, blog and / or social media presence to turn into a virtual memorial when you die?
- - Do you have a list of all websites on which you have a presence as well as the passwords for accessing those accounts? Where is it?