If you were hit by a bus, and passed on to whatever heaven might exist, would you care about your Facebook page? Probably not. But your loved ones more than likely would. Things like email, websites, and social media profiles are considered “digital assets,” which may have some monetary value, but for the most part offer sentimental value to the family of the deceased.
I went to high school with a darling young woman who passed away at far too young an age. Her Facebook page sees a lot of activity. Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t make use of this forum to leave a message telling her they love her. It’s quite nice to visit her page and witness this outpouring of affection.
When Facebook is informed that a profile’s owner has passed away, the account is memorialized, which means that nobody can access or edit the account, nor can any new friends be accepted, but people can still post messages and comments.
However, the inability to access an account might pose a burden to the family of the deceased, who might wish to learn more about their loved one or need administrative abilities in order to access crucial information, alert loved ones, or even finalize the deceased’s affairs.
The Associated Press reports, “Now lawmakers and attorneys in at least two states are considering proposals that would require Facebook and other social networks to grant access to loved ones when a family member dies, essentially making the site contents part of a person’s digital estate. The issue is growing increasingly important as people record more thoughts and experiences online and more disputes break out over that material.”
Facebook currently provides an online form that can be used to report a user’s death. “If prior consent is obtained from or decreed by the deceased or mandated by law,” Facebook will provide the family of the deceased with a download of all account data.
Though you may not particularly care to acknowledge it, now might be a good time to instruct a trusted friend or family member on how to access your various social media assets in the event that something bad should happen.
Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Evangelist to McAfee. Watch him discussing information he found on used electronic devices YouTube. (Disclosures)