Is life on Facebook really eternal?
Uploaded sonogram pictures and anticipatory status updates have made it commonplace for people to be on social networks before they are born, and several laws are now making it not only common, but legal to have an online presence long after you’re dead.
An unspecified Connecticut lawmaker requested an Office of Legislative Research report released on Feb. 15 that detailed what would happen, under Connecticut law, to a person’s Facebook account if they died.
Connecticut was one of the first of five states to enact legislation regarding what happens to your life online once it ends on earth. In both Connecticut and Rhode Island, the law only addresses email accounts.
Connecticut’s law states that an email service provider must supply the executor or administrator of a deceased person’s estate with copies or access to the contents of their email by way of a written request accompanied by both proof of death and proof that they are in fact the executor or administrator.
Similar laws were enacted in Indiana, Oklahoma, and Idaho but have since adjusted to the growing popularity of social networks and now allow the executors and administrators of an estate to have control over the digital legacy left behind on these networks by the deceased.
In Idah,o you can even continue the account of another if you so choose, according to Senate Bill 1044.
There are currently no proposed bills in Connecticut regarding what happens to an individual’s social network accounts upon their death.
Facebook will either memorialize or delete the account of the deceased upon the request of a close friend or family member, according to Facebook policy.
Memorialized accounts allow current friends to post comments and send private messages, but no new friends can be added and no one can log into the account.
To memorialize an account you need to notify Facebook of your relationship with the deceased user and provide proof of death, which can be in the form of an obituary or death certificate.
For those looking to maintain a digital identity after passing, a memorial page may not be enough.
The written distribution of digital assets upon death is becoming just as important as tangible belongings like vacation homes, jewelry, and photographs.
Goldsmith’s at the University of London found that one in 10 people in the U.K. are leaving online passwords behind in their will, according to a Telegraph article.
Facebook will send the contents of someone’s page, upon death, to a family member or loved one provided that they have obtained a written court order, or if it is specified in the will of the deceased. They still will not provide any login information.
However, Facebook can be asked, by court order, to provide login information, but it is then their decision to either appeal or comply.
“That’s just obnoxious,” Joseph Alvaro of New Jersey, who has maintained his daughter’s Facebook account since she passed in 2010, said. “If you’re a direct relative like a father, or mother, or wife there should be no court order. Someone has to access it,” he said.
If having someone else maintain your Facebook profile after you die is not satisfactory, there is an app for that at ifidie.net.
ifidie allows Facebook users to create a final message, in the form of video or text, to share with the Facebook community when they die. Since the app’s 2011 launch, it has attracted more than 200,000 users in 42 different countries, according to an ifidie press release.
ifidie markets their app as “a once in a death-time chance” to leave a digital legacy behind when you pass, a goal made possible by the advent of social networks and the laws that protect them.