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What Happens to Our Digital Lives After We Die?

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In the era of cloud storage and cryptocurrencies, the concept of digital inheritance is becoming a critical issue. It’s wise and relatively simple to make arrangements for your digital afterlife sooner rather than later.

Lucky are those who haven’t yet had to tackle this topic, but as nature’s laws dictate, their numbers are dwindling over time. Eventually, the time we spend in the online spaces woven through various communication services with our loved ones, friends, and business contacts will expire. So, what happens to our accounts and other digital belongings after we pass away?

Facebook’s Digital Afterlife

Initially, Facebook just erased the pages of deceased users. Since October 2009, however, it has transformed these pages into “memorial pages” upon receiving a death certificate. Since early 2015, users themselves can designate a legacy contact to manage their accounts post-mortem or choose to have their profiles permanently deleted.

There have been some sticky wickets along the way. For instance, in 2013, it became a nasty prank to report others as deceased, turning their profiles into memorial pages. In 2017, a German mother won a lawsuit over her 15-year-old daughter’s Facebook page after the daughter died in a subway accident.

Germany’s highest court has ruled that the parents of a dead daughter have the rights to her Facebook account under inheritance law.

Remember, all content on Facebook is owned by the platform, and the Zuck & Co. often face criticism for not lifting a finger when bereaved users request access to their loved ones’ accounts.

Google and the Inactive Account Manager

Since April 2013, Google has operated the Inactive Account Manager, allowing users to transfer their account rights when they become inactive. This service also extends to one of Google’s most widely used services, YouTube.

Twitter / X: From Memorial Pages to Deactivation

Previously, Twitter offered the option to turn deceased users’ profiles into memorial pages. However, since 2019, they have only deactivated the accounts, requiring a relative’s ID and a death certificate. After the tragic trolling incident involving Robin Williams’ daughter Zelda in 2014, Twitter also started deleting photos of deceased users.

iTunes: Digital Music and the Void

Have you ever bought an album from Apple’s iTunes store? Well, you didn’t actually “buy” it. The contents are non-transferable and vanish into the ether upon your death. Just like most of the digital copy of your games.

Beyond Social Media: The Vast Digital Legacy

The digital existence of the modern individual extends far beyond social media platforms. We’re talking about cloud-stored files, personal websites, intellectual property, medical records, transaction data, modern banking, and cryptocurrencies.

For those who take early care of their digital legacy, numerous options are available. Simple solutions include using a password manager, which periodically emails to confirm the user is still alive. More comprehensive digital estate services distribute everything from social media accounts to cloud storage and, most crucially, hand over cryptocurrency wallets without any fuss.

The only service still missing? One that wipes your browser history.

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Gyula Virag
Gyula Virag

Gyula is a developer and a passionate geek father with a deep love of online marketing and technology. He always seeks challenging adventures and opportunities to create something permanent in the digital world.

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