Death and the Internet

A recent extension to the cultural relationship with death is the increasing number of people who die having created a large amount of digital content, such as social media profiles, that will remain after death. This may result in concern and confusion, because of automated features of dormant accounts (e.g. birthday reminders), uncertainty of the deceased's preferences that profiles be deleted or left as a memorial, and whether information that may violate the deceased's privacy (such as email or browser history) should be made accessible to family.

Issues with how this information is sensitively dealt with are further complicated as it may belong to the service provider (not the deceased) and many do not have clear policies on what happens to the accounts of deceased users. While some sites, including Facebook and Twitter, have policies related to death, others remain dormant until deleted due to inactivity or transferred to family or friends. The FADA (Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act) was set in place to legally make it possible to transfer digital possessions legally. [1]


Gmail[2] and Hotmail[3] allow the email accounts of the deceased to be accessed, provided certain requirements are met. Yahoo! Mail will not provide access, citing the No Right of Survivorship and Non-Transferability clause in the Yahoo! terms of service.[4] In 2005 Yahoo! was ordered by the Probate Court of Oakland County, Michigan, to release emails of deceased US Marine Justin Ellsworth to his father, John Ellsworth.[5]

By website



In the early days Facebook used to delete profiles of dead people.[6] In October 2009, the company introduced “memorial pages” responding to multiple user request related to Virginia Tech shooting (2007).[7][6] After receiving a proof of death via a special form the profile was converted into a tribute page with minimal personal details, where friends and family members could share their grief.[6]

In February 2015, Facebook allowed users to appoint a friend or family member as a "legacy contact" with the rights to manage their page after death.[8] [8] It also gave Facebook users an option to have their account permanently deleted when they die.[9]

As of January 2019, all of the 3 options were active.[10]


In 2013, BuzzFeed criticized Facebook for the lack of control over memorialization that resulted in a “Facebook death” prank aimed at locking Facebook friends out of their own accounts.[11][12]

In 2017, Reuters reported that a German court rejected a mother’s demand to access her deceased daughter’s memorized account stating that the right to private telecommunications outweighed the right to inheritance.[13] In July 2018, Dubai’s DIFC Courts ruling clarified that Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts should be bequeathed in legally binding will.[14]

Social media network has also been criticized for not responding to relative’s requests to alter information on memorized accounts.[15] Another popular criticism is that Facebook users don’t realize that their content is ultimately owned not by them, but by Facebook.[16]



Dropbox determines inactive accounts by looking at sign-ins, file shares, and file activity over the last 12 months. Dropbox deletes all the files stored on inactive accounts an account is inactive, the service will close it and all the files will be deleted.[17] To request access to the account of someone who has died, heirs will need to send a certain amount of documents by mail (not by an email).[18] Alternatively, files of deceased users can be accessed via the dedicated Dropbox folder on their computer, which syncs to their account online.[19][18]



In April 2013, Google announced the creation of the 'Inactive Account Manager', which allows users of Google services to set up a process in which ownership and control of inactive accounts is transferred to a delegated user.[20][21][22]

Google also allows users to submit a range of requests regarding accounts belonging to deceased users.[2] Google can work with immediate family members and representatives to close online accounts in some cases once a user is known to be deceased, and in certain circumstances may provide content from a deceased user's account.


MySpace will allow a memorial to be set up to honor deceased users.



Until 2010, Twitter (launched in July 2006) didn’t have a policy on handling deceased user accounts, and just deleted timelines of users who have died.[23] In August 2010, Twitter allowed to memorialize accounts upon request from family members and provided them with an option of either deleting the account or obtaining a permanent backup of the deceased user's public tweets.[24]

In 2014, Twitter updated its policy with an option of deleting deceased user photographs after multiple Twitter trolls attacked Zelda Williams sending her photoshopped images of Robin Williams.[25]

As of January 2019, the only option that Twitter offered for the accounts of dead people, was account deactivation. Previously published content is not removed. To deactivate an account Twitter requires an immediate family member to present a copy of their ID and a death certificate of the deceased.[10] Twitter specifies that it doesn’t provide account access to anyone,[26] but allowed people having login and password to continue posting. A popular example is Roger Ebert’s account supported by his wife Chaz.[27][28]


In 2012, The Next Web columnist Martin Bryant noticed that since Twitter, unlike Facebook, didn’t have ‘one account per real person’ emphasis, memorializing accounts presented a difficulty to the service.[29] He also criticized the service for the lack of control over hacking of such accounts and disapproved the practice of passing dead people’s usernames to new owners after a certain period of inactivity.[29]

In 2013, Variety ran a feature about Cory Monteith’s Twitter account that had 1.5 million followers at the moment on his death and gained almost 1 million new followers afterwards. Monteith’s fans also launched #DontDeleteCorysTwitter campaign.[30] As of January 2019, celebrity’s account had 1.64 million followers.[31]

Various media reported awkward incidents related to automatic posting and account hacking.[32][28]



iCloud and iTunes accounts are “non transferable” since the content is not owned - users have a licence to access it.[33]


Users who have made at least several hundred edits or are otherwise known for substantial contributions to Wikipedia can be noted at a central memorial page. Wikipedia user pages are ordinarily fully edit-protected after the user has died, to prevent vandalism.


YouTube grants access to accounts of deceased persons under certain conditions.[34] It is one of the data options that one can select to give access to a trusted contact with Google's Inactive Account Manager.[35]

Digital inheritance

Digital inheritance is the process of handing over (personal) digital assets to (human) beneficiaries. These digital assets include digital estates and the right to use them. It may include bank accounts, writings, photographs, and social interactions.

There are several services that offer to keep multiple passwords, sending them to people of personal choice after death. Some of these send the customer an email from time to time, prompting to confirm that that person is still alive, and failure to respond to multiple emails makes the service provider to assume that the person has deceased, and will thereafter give out the passwords as previously requested.[36] The Data Inheritance function from SecureSafe gives an "activator code" that the customer will hand to another trustworthy person of personal choice, and in the event of death that person then enters the code into Secure Safe's system to get access to the deceased person's digital inheritance.[37] Legacy Locker and SafeBeyond require two verifiers who both must confirm the death, as well as providing a death certificate, before any passwords will be handed out.[36]

For those who are paranoid about their online Privacy, platforms like LifeBank offer a helpful secure capability to store all internet account passwords offline whilst ensuring that a trusted person is given permission to access the individual's LifeBank when they die. This gives the inheritor the ability to access and edit accounts, including deleting information or indeed the entire account.

Death and Social Media

With the heavy increase in social media use, social media is affecting the way deaths are treated. "Virtual funerals" and various other forms of previously physical memorabilia are being introduced into the digital world.[38] Information about the person and details of their death, life, and everything in between can now be found circling the internet. [39] After someone dies, on almost all of their social media accounts you can find condolences and final messages to the person or family. Families of deceased or dying people are receiving messages of encouragement and disbelief from friends and family around the world, and sometimes from people they haven't spoken to in a long time. [40] Social media has been having a huge impact on the way that we live and it is now affecting what happens after we die. The world is changing rapidly, so the traditional ways of the past and changing as well. Funerals and memorials were always done physically, but the internet has added freedom and allows people to perform the same tasks from all other the world.

See also


  1. ^ (2017-02-11). "Your Digital Inheritance: What Happens to Your Social Media Accounts When You Die?". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2019-02-25.
  2. ^ a b Submit a request regarding a deceased user's account
  3. ^ How to request data from a deceased user's account?
  4. ^ "Yahoo Terms of Service".
  5. ^ "Yahoo releases e-mail of deceased Marine".
  6. ^ a b c Wortham, Jenna (July 17, 2010). "As Facebook Users Die, Ghosts Reach Out". The New York Times. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  7. ^ Moore, Matthew. "Facebook introduces 'memorial' pages to prevent alerts about dead members". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Leinwand Leger, Donna (February 12, 2015). "New Facebook policy allows social media immortality". USA Today. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  9. ^ Oremus, Will (February 12, 2015). "Dying on Facebook Just Got a Little Less Awkward". Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  10. ^ a b Ritschel, Chelsea (January 2, 2019). "What happens to your Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts when you die". The Independent. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  11. ^ Notopoulos, Katie (January 4, 2013). "How Almost Anyone Can Take You Off Facebook (And Lock You Out)". BuzzFeed. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  12. ^ "'Facebook Dead' Prank: New Memorialization Page Can Lock Living Friend's Account". HuffPost. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  13. ^ Sheahan, Maria (May 31, 2017). "Parents have no right to dead child's Facebook account, German court says". Reuters. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  14. ^ Talwar Badam, Ramola. "Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts can now be bequeathed in legally binding will". The National (Abu Dhabi). Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  15. ^ Cruz, David (April 18, 2018). "Surviving family struggles with Facebook over photos on memorial page". NJTV. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  16. ^ Smiley, Stephen (October 4, 2017). "Preparing for digital death: What do you know about the fate of your online accounts?". ABC News (Australia). Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  17. ^ "I got an email about an inactive Dropbox account. What do I need to do?". Dropbox. January 19, 2019. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  18. ^ a b "How to access the Dropbox account of someone who has passed away". Dropbox. January 19, 2019. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  19. ^ Hochstadt, Ariel (January 10, 2019). "Your Ultimate Guide on Digital Death (and How to Handle It)". Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  20. ^ Tuerk, Andreas (April 11, 2013). "Plan your digital afterlife with Inactive Account Manager". Google. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  21. ^ James, Philip; Magee, Sheilagh (April 16, 2013). "Google RIP: What Inactive Account Manager means for your will". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  22. ^ "Who owns your data when you're dead?". The Economist. July 19, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  23. ^ Cheng, Jacqui (March 16, 2010). "Death and social media: what happens to your life online?". Ars Technica. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
  24. ^ O’Dell, Jolie (August 10, 2010). "What Happens to Your Twitter Account When You Die?". Mashable. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
  25. ^ Feinberg, Ashley (August 20, 2014). "How Twitter Could Beat the Trolls, And Why It Won't". Gizmodo. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
  26. ^ "How to contact Twitter about media concerning a deceased family member". Twitter. 2019. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
  27. ^ Schonfeld, Zach (August 5, 2013). "How Roger Ebert Managed His Digital Afterlife". The Atlantic. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
  28. ^ a b Ohlheiser, Abby (May 20, 2016). "A question we never thought we would have to ask after someone dies". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
  29. ^ a b Bryant, Martin (June 30, 2012). "Twitter should 'memorialize' our accounts when we die". The Next Web. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
  30. ^ Khatchatourian, Maane (July 31, 2013). "The Memory of Cory Monteith Lives On (and On) via Social Media". Variety. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
  31. ^ "Cory Monteith". Twitter. January 18, 2019. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
  32. ^ Owoseje, Toyin (November 13, 2017). "'Are you alive?' Shyla Stylez fans freak out as dead porn star's Twitter continues to post". International Business Times. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
  33. ^ "Digital property: can you bequeath your iTunes library?". The Week. January 31, 2014. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
  34. ^ Fix account problems: Obtaining a deceased person's YouTube videos, retrieved 13 July 2014
  35. ^ Plan your digital afterlife with Inactive Account Manager, retrieved 20 November 2014
  36. ^ a b Duffy, Jill (2012-10-08). "Get Organized: Passing on Your Passwords". PC Magazine. PCMag Digital Group. Retrieved 2015-03-18.
  37. ^ "When You Die Will Your Digital Data Die With You?". Retrieved 2015-03-18.
  38. ^ Bisceglio, Paul (2013-08-20). "How Social Media Is Changing The Way We Approach Death". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2019-03-25.
  39. ^ Dilmac, Julie (2016). "The New Forms of Mourning: Loss and Exhibition of the Death on the Internet". Journal of Death and Dying. 77: 280–295 – via EBSCOhost.
  40. ^ "We Live On the Internet. We Die Alone". Time. Retrieved 2019-03-25.

Further reading

Digital Will

A will, often called a "Last Will and Testament", is a legal document that allows a person to give instructions on what to do with their possessions once they die. It is also used so that people can declare a legal guardian for their children in the event of their death. In the digital age, people

have been wondering what happens to their digital presence once they die. Digital wills are wills that determine the fate of a person’s digital presence once they die. These archives encompass any online account that a person may have such as social media, shopping sites, and gaming sites. Many websites now have a set of guidelines and procedures that can be followed to remove a deceased person’s account from their servers. These procedures may vary from site to site. However, a digital will is a way to determine the fate of your online presence in one location instead of having to make arrangements with each site individually.

Digital inheritance

Digital inheritance is the process of handing over (personal) digital media in the form of digital assets and rights to (human) beneficiaries. The process includes understanding what digital assets and rights exist and dealing with them after a person has died.

Digital media play an increasingly important role in life. The media in which a digital inheritance resides can be owned by or independent of the deceased. In contrast with physical assets, digital assets are ephemeral and subject to constant change. Intellectual property and privacy, particularly post-mortem privacy, are additional factors. Digital inheritance may present a challenge for data heirs in its complexity and intricacy, and may have legal implications. With the average person having multiple online accounts, digital inheritance has become a complex issue.

Ego Death (album)

Ego Death is the third studio album by American R&B band The Internet. It was released on June 26, 2015, by Columbia Records and Odd Future Records.

Ego Death was supported by the singles; "Special Affair" and "Girl". The album was nominated at the 2016 Grammy Awards for Best Urban Contemporary Album.

Index of articles related to terms of service and privacy policies

This is a list of articles about terms of service and privacy policies. These are also called terms of use, and are rules one must agree to, in order to use a service. The articles fall in two main categories: descriptions of terms used for specific companies or products, and descriptions of different kinds of terms in general. Articles on companies vary widely in the amount of detail they give on terms of service. Annotations show what is available in the article on each company, and need to be updated as those articles are improved.

Terms of service are regularly the subject of news articles throughout the English-language press, such as in the US, UK, Africa, India, Singapore, and Australia. Terms of service are also addressed in a widely reviewed documentary, academic research, and legal research.

Outline of death

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to death:

Death – termination of all biological functions that sustain a living organism.

Personal archiving

Personal Archiving is a branch of archival science and genealogy, focusing on the capture and preservation of an individual's personal papers and other documentary output, generally by the individuals concerned. It is often related to family history, when family historians are engaged in capturing their own living history to leave as a legacy for future generations. This branch of family history is allied to the growth in activities such as photograph and record scanning which seeks to preserve materials beyond their original life.

Modern personal archiving is often concerned with digital preservation, especially with collating individual's content from social media websites and ensuring the long-term preservation of this. This often deals with migration of digital content, as a means of preservation, rather than the tradition tasks of conservation of paper-based records.

Social media and suicide

Social media and suicide is a relatively new phenomenon, which influences suicide-related behavior. Suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, in the year 2019, approximately 1.53 million people will die from suicide. There is increasing evidence that this behavior of using social media affects and changes people's lives, especially in teenagers. Suicide has been identified not only as an individual phenomenon, but it is influenced by social and environmental factors. As the internet becomes more ingrained in people's everyday life, they are desensitized to the mental and emotional issues it can cause to an individual.In one of the widely known cases, the death of Phoebe Prince, it is generally believed that her actions of suicide were motivated by cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a huge problem linked to increases in suicide rates (Mason, 2008). One explanation that has arisen, is the cause and effect relationship between social media advertised suicides and younger generations being influenced by them. Aside from kids being influenced by suicide tendencies online, there is the psychological explanation behind "of fame". The first person who committed suicide live on today's social media platforms – Océane Ebem, an eighteen-year-old woman from Égly in the suburbs of Paris – explicitly said, "I want to communicate a message, and I want it to be passed around, even if it's very shocking."The media tends to popularize videos and social media posts in order to inform the public of the rising trouble, which creates popular appeal to the young and immature minds of teenagers. Social media could provide higher risks with the promotion of different kinds of pro-suicidal sites, message boards, chat rooms and forums. In addition, the Internet not only reports suicide incidents but documents suicide methods (for example, suicide pacts, an agreement between two or more people to commit suicide at a particular time and often by the same lethal means). The role the Internet plays, particularly social media, in suicide-related behavior is a topic of growing interest.

Will and testament

A will or testament is a legal document by which a person, the testator, expresses their wishes as to how their property is to be distributed at death, and names one or more persons, the executor, to manage the estate until its final distribution. For the devolution of property not disposed of by will, see inheritance and intestacy.

Though it has at times been thought that a "will" was historically limited to real property while "testament" applies only to dispositions of personal property (thus giving rise to the popular title of the document as "Last Will and Testament"), the historical records show that the terms have been used interchangeably. Thus, the word "will" validly applies to both personal and real property. A will may also create a testamentary trust that is effective only after the death of the testator.

In medicine
After death

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