What happens to your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Last.fm and other social networking accounts after you die? That’s something the U.S. government wants people to think about. Listed on USA.gov’s financial recommendations website, along with advice on home ownership and money management, the government suggests creating a “social media will” to make sure these accounts don’t get abandoned for good, with information on them that you may not want circulating. This is application control from beyond the grave, and it could be extremely important.
“If you are active online you should consider creating a statement of how you would like your online identity to be handled,” the site says. “You should appoint someone you trust as your online executor. This person will be responsible for the closure of your email addresses, social media profiles, and blogs after you are deceased.”
So what’s the point? Mashable said some estimates show nearly half a million people with Facebook accounts passed away last year. Many sites have no guidance on what to do with those people’s pages and don’t easily give out usernames and passwords.
Naomi Cahn, a professor of law at George Washington University, told Mashable that this may be in murky legal territory right now. She said formal wills become public, so people need to be very careful what they put in wills, as “anyone in the world could have access to it.” This means that even after passing, someone could have their identity stolen or perhaps even have assets compromised. Cahn said people also have many usernames and passwords for differnet websites that are ever changing, so it may be exhausting to update social media wills on an ongoing basis. I’m getting tired of thinking about all of my own passwords and usernames!
“Planning for the care of your online trail post-mortem presents different issues than planning for money and physical objects,” Mashable said. “In part this is because our legal regimes and social norms are less solidified in these areas, and, in part because they are actually different animals: A Facebook account can become a participatory memorial that many friends and family can return to over the years, in a way that’s not true of your physical belongings. But despite their differences – or, perhaps, because of them – they each require their own plans for after you go.”
Do you have a plan for your social media accounts right now? Have you thought about it? Let us know in the comments!