Stevie Martin | Staff Writer | Friday, 13 February 2015

You Can Have A Facebook Heir - But What Happens To Your Twitter, Instagram And Google Accounts When You Die?

The Debrief: Yeah you can make an heir on Facebook for when you die - but what happens to your instagrams of urban walls?

Facebook has caused a bit of a storm after unveiling its digital will - basically, certain parts of the US (and soon, the UK) allow Facebook users to choose who can take over their account when they die. 

There are three options open to a Facebook account that outlives its user; it can be turned into a memorial page, the account can be downloaded and then deleted online, or the entire account can just be deleted. Which makes us feel really weird, to think of all those memories and photos and wall posts all disappearing at the click of a button - but, then again, that's what dying is. If you're made an heir, you can't untag the deceased user from embarrassing photos or read their private messages, which is actually better than IRL dying in terms of privacy - pre-Facebook, you can imagine the filth people found in boxes of old love letters. 

Alternatively, there's a third party app called IfIDie that creates a video that automatically posts to Facebook once you die. You can also automatically send text messages, too. Which both sent our mood plummeting, and made us wonder what happens to our other accounts once we've kicked the proverbial bucket of life. Because, just like some of us have instructed family members to burn the written diaries (11 - 19 years old) we've kept in the bedroom cupboard, we want to make sure our online lives are secure. As much as we don't want to admit it, our profiles are a lot more important than we'd think. 

 Twitter

It's really simple - you just get in touch with Twitter, let them know, and the account gets deleted. You can also download all of the person's previous tweets if you fancy via Tweet Download to keep forever, but in order to prove that they've gone to a better/other/dead place you've got to provide: 

 The username of the deceased user’s Twitter account (e.g., @username or twitter.com/username)

A copy of the deceased user’s death certificate

A copy of your government-issued ID (e.g., driver’s license)

A signed statement including:

  • Your first and last name
  • Your email address
  • Your current contact information
  • Your relationship to the deceased user or their estate
  • Action requested (e.g., ‘please deactivate the Twitter account’)
  • A brief description of the details that evidence this account belongs to the deceased, if the name on the account does not match the name on death certificate.
  • A link to an online obituary or a copy of the obituary from a local newspaper (optional)

If, for some totally bizarre reason, you want to keep tweeting after you die - in true Black Mirror style - then check out LivesOn, with the tagline: 'When your heart stops beating, you keep tweeting'. We're traumatized; at best, it's a bit weird. At worst,  people will use it as a practical joke and scare the shit out of everyone. Nobody wins. 

Instagram

There isn't really a procedure with instagram, except contacting them via email, and they don't seem to have any prerequisites for contacting them either - which is slightly worrying. What if someone just did it as a joke and you lost all your pictures of blue skies and urban walls? Instagram does, however, state that it honours the requests of close family members, which is good. Unless your dad's a joker. 

Google

Oh god, you're thinking, what will happen to my Google+ account? Well, no, we're actually talking Gmail. We're talking Google Drive. We're talking a significant portion of your life (unless you use hotmail, in which case, hahahahahahahahahhaha). In 2013, Google unveiled Inactive Account Manager - an excitingly named section of Settings that allows you to tell Google what you want them to do with your online shit once you've died. 'You can tell us what to do with your Gmail messages and data from several other Google services if your account becomes inactive for any reason,' the website states. 'For example, you can choose to have your data deleted — after three, six, nine or 12 months of inactivity.'. You can also select trusted people to receive all your data for Gmail (and loads of other services like Picasa and, yes, your Google + profile that you definitely have and use all the time), but Google will get in touch with you via text before it takes any action, in case you just forgot to log in for ages. 

As you were. 

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Follow Stevie on Twitter until she dies: @5tevieM