It is often a topic that people tend to shun away from, or they may think that while that day will come eventually, it may not be so soon, so why worry about it now? This is not quite true. Making plans for what happens after we have gone is important for the people we leave behind. That is why people make a will. It is never too soon to plan who can access your online accounts after your death.
Google launched the Inactive Account Manager in 2013.
For example, users can choose to have their data automatically deleted after a period of inactivity (between 3 to 18 months), or they can select trusted contacts to download their data after a period of inactivity.
According to Yahoo’s No Right of Survivorship and Non-Transferability clause, a user’s Yahoo account is non-transferable and any rights to his Yahoo ID or contents within his Yahoo account terminate upon his death.
The Microsoft’s Next of Kin process allows for the release of Outlook.com contents, including all emails and their attachments, address book, and Messenger contact list, to the next of kin of a deceased or incapacitated account holder and/or closure of the Microsoft account, following a short authentication process.
All contents will be downloaded onto a data DVD and then shipped to the next of kin. Microsoft will not release the deceased’s password or change the password.
There have been several cases where an individual was trying to gain access to his loved one’s Facebook account after the passing of the loved one. Facebook’s terms of service make it very clear that accessing an account that belongs to someone else amounts to a breach of the terms, which would enable Facebook to cut access to it.
Facebook allows users to appoint a legacy contact i.e. someone that the user chooses to look after and manage his account if it is memorialized. Of course, the legacy contact will not be able to take full control of the account as if he becomes the new owner of the account.
Family members or an authorized person who acts on behalf of the deceased can request to have the deceased’s account deactivated provided information such as a copy of the requestor’s ID and a copy of the deceased’s death certificate be submitted to Twitter.
LinkedIn allows family members, friends and even colleagues to request LinkedIn to remove the deceased’s profile and close his account by filling out a death verification form and providing the necessary information to LinkedIn.
Instagram also allows family members to request Instagram to close and delete the deceased’s account or have it memorialised. Instagram will also require proof of death such as link to an obituary or a death certificate and a legal document that shows that the request person is legally authorised to make such a request.
It is for this very reason that they will always refuse to disclose the deceased’s password to anyone. That said, they do provide ways for people to remove the deceased’s accounts. Some allow restricted access to certain information, while others only allow removal of account.
“We spend a huge part of our lives online, so it is becoming more and more apparent that we should plan for our own deaths online” – James Norris, founder of DeadSocial, a UK company that helps individuals create social media “goodbye messages” for their loved ones.
Some of the states in the US have embarked on drafting legislation to provide executors and other parties with a legal basis on which to assert authority over digital assets. In other countries including Malaysia, this grey area remains largely unregulated. While some have suggested building in a digital estate plan into a conventional will, the legality of such an approach still remains uncertain.