Our Digital Afterlives

I was reading this article "Cyberspace When You're Dead" when I came across this point that questioned the fate of our digital afterlives or our personal digital information that is stored in almost every search engine and website we have used before after we are dead. In the article, Rob Walker stressed on the fact that we have large masses of digital stuff ranging from thousands of pictures on Flickr and Facebook to endless personal data that is kept unsecured especially if a person is dead and left all of this undeleted. Although, it may seem unlikely to happen that the online information of a dead person by any means woul benefit marketers or entrepreneurs, the article talked about the this possibility and validated it by several examples and figures.

"The number of U.S. Facebook users who die annually is about 375,000." Rob Walker

"Entrepreneurs are trying to build whole new businesses around digital-afterlife management." Rob Walker

While reading the article, I thought about an example of a person who had died and had a Facebook account that included many pictures of him and his second wife. When his daughter was accidentally typing his name on Google, she was surprised to find out that her father had a Facebook account and was married to another woman whom of course she did not know or meet before……so can you imagine this? Wouldn't this cause a lot of problems for this family and the daughter as well?

It was interesting that the article referred to such website called The Digital Beyond which fully investigated this issue of the fate of one's digital assets after his/her death. I actually found on this website specific declarations by popular websites concerning such matter of death of one of their users.

According to Facebook administration:

"Your heirs can request that your account be deleted or “memorialized.” Memorialized profiles restrict profile access to confirmed friends, and allow friends and family to write on the user’s Wall in remembrance. You shouldn’t count on it staying active since anyone can request that it be memorialized by simply notifying Facebook and showing a death certificate or a news article that indicates your death."

It is worth mentioning that Facebook intrdouced lately a new feature that enables all users to download all of their photos, videos, wall posts, notes, messages, events and friends. Accordingly, the ability to retrieve content from one's Facebook account will be really helpful to those who are wishing to know about the online accounts of their dead ones. Provided the email address and password to the deceased’s account, his family or close ones can easily archive their content in case it is needed or wanted in the future.

According to Twitter administration:

"If we are notified that a Twitter user has passed away, we can remove their account or assist family members in saving a backup of their public Tweets. Please contact us with the following information: 1) Your full name, contact information (including email address), and your relationship to the deceased user. 2) The username of the Twitter account, or a link to the profile page of the Twitter account.
3) A link to a public obituary or news article."

According to Yahoo administration:

"No Right of Survivorship and Non-Transferability. You agree that your Yahoo! account is non-transferable and any rights to your Yahoo! ID or contents within your account terminate upon your death. Upon receipt of a copy of a death certificate, your account may be terminated and all contents therein permanently deleted."

According to YouTube administration:

"If an individual has passed away and you need access to the content of his or her YouTube account, please fax or mail us the following information: 1) Your full name and contact information, including a verifiable email address. 2) The YouTube account name of the individual who passed away. 3) A copy of the death certificate of the deceased. 4) A copy of the document that gives you Power of Attorney over the YouTube account. 5) If you are the parent of the individual, please send us a copy of the Birth Certificate if the YouTube account owner was under the age of 18. In this case, Power of Attorney is not required."


Furthermore, in the same article, I found a link for a blog called Death and Digital Legacy which had this amazing post about Digital Death Day which seemed weird to me at first especially that I have never heard of such day before. According to the blog, the Digital Death Day is "a collaborative unconference where attendees work together to explore how they should deal with their online profiles after death." It is worth mentioning that most of the people who attend this conference are entrepreneurs, Internet service professionals, attorneys, estate planners, researchers, technologists, archivists, policy makers, funeral directors and even media people if possible. For more information about Digital Death Day, please visit: http://digitaldeathday.com/