By the end of this century, there will be more profiles of dead people than of living users.
Nearly 8,000 Facebook users die daily. By the end of this century, Facebook will become the world’s biggest virtual graveyard as there will be more profiles of dead people than of living users.
Facebook is just one of the several social media platforms. Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Reddit and others have flooded us, garnering millions of users.
There are over two billion people on Facebook, over 1.5 billion on WhatsApp, one billion on Instagram and 336 million on Twitter — out of which millions are from India.
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Despite spending a sizeable amount of time on digital platforms, few of us actually ponder over what will happen to our digital possessions once we die.
The big question is: How to make digital platforms realise the need to transfer digital assets – personal photos, videos and friendly posts — to the family once a member is no more.
“When someone dies leaving behind his email and social media accounts, the same are movable property and that being so, any heirs of the concerned person can seek right to access the same,” says Pavan Duggal, one of the nation’s top cyber law experts.
Facebook lets people choose a legacy contact – a family member or friend who can manage their account when they pass away.
“Once someone lets us know that a person has passed away, we will memorialise the account,” says Facebook.
The legacy contact will be able to write a post to display at the top of the memorialised Timeline.
If someone likes, he or she may give legacy contact permission to download an archive of the photos, posts and profile information they shared on Facebook.
The legacy contact, however, will not be able to log in as the person who passed away or see that person’s private messages. Alternatively, you can let Facebook know to have the account permanently deleted after death.
A “digital heir” can preserve precious social media moments of the deceased and gift those to future generations via tools such as an external hard disk, Cloud storage, pen drive or DVDs.
The said heirs can ask the digital/social media companies to get access after giving the necessary proof.
“Invariably, the service provider may not be inclined to give such access without any requisite order from the court of competent jurisdiction. This could mean getting a succession certificate from a court of competent jurisdiction which could be a time-consuming process,” Duggal told IANS.
Google, which owns Gmail, YouTube and Picasa web albums, has an “Inactive Account Manager” feature which allows a user to nominate who has access to his or her information. If people don’t log on after a while, their accounts can be deleted or shared with a designated person.
According to Twitter, “In the event of the death of a Twitter user, we can work with a person authorised to act on behalf of the estate or with a verified immediate family member of the deceased to have an account deactivated.”
Twitter, however, says that “we are unable to provide account access to anyone regardless of his or her relationship to the deceased”.
Like Facebook, Instagram memorialises accounts but they can’t be changed and no one can log into the profile.
Instagram asks that friends and relatives get in touch via email to notify them that a user has died and asks for a proof of death.
Apple iCloud and iTunes accounts are “non transferable” which means any rights to information end when a user is no more.