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Mourners Call Out For Easier Access to Deceased Relatives Social Media

Tweets From Beyond the Grave

Having a loved one pass away is never an easy process, and today’s digital age further complicates what is already a difficult time. The deceased leaves behind a treasure trove of information, photos and memories, spattered across various social media platforms, and there has been a recent push to give bereaved families access to these accounts. Should be a simple process, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not.

 newamericamedia.org

According to estimates, approximately 8000 Facebook users die every day, adding up to a staggering 30 million of Facebook’s 1.35 billion strong user base that are actually deceased. Each of them leaves behind a digital record of their life, which whether it be for sentimentality or privacy, their relatives would like to access. Due to privacy measures on the part of these companies however, this is a long, complicated and drawn-out process.

To give one example, British soldier Edward Drummond-Baxter was killed in 2012, during his first deployment to Iraq. His Facebook, of course, stayed active. His sister requested to take over the account, and although she was eventually successful Facebook insisted upon a death certificate and news clippings in order to confirm the death, and the process was elongated significantly. She also attempted to gain access to Edward’s E-mail account in order to review important documents relating to his estate. Google point blank refused.

In response to cases such as this springing up globally, wills and estates lawyer Kimberly Martin is urging clients to include their ‘digital assets’ in their wills, along with a list of passwords. The hope is to simplify the process, and give some guidance to mourning families on what action to take.
There is increased pressure from governments in many US states, such as Delaware, to force Google, Facebook and other social media companies to grant access to families of the deceased.

Ms Martin is quoted on the matter:

"I think laws like this are important because without some sort of guidance, not only do lawyers struggle to know what road to take and where to look for the right information but people who are trying to deal with these things on the frontline after somebody has died have no idea what to do."

Privacy for the deceased and their families is not the only issue here though. Criminality is also a big concern. These unmonitored, dormant accounts are a prime target for identity theft, as they contain all the details needed for criminal endeavours. Brian Hay from the Queensland Police Fraud and Cyber Crime Squad spoke about the matter on 7.30, a popular news program on Australia’s ABC network. He is quoted below:

"It is an Aladdin's cave of criminality because you have everything at your disposal that you need to commit crimes, The reality is you are more vulnerable because you can't speak up and say hang on, that new addition to that page is not me, that information is no longer about me or my family."

Despite the warnings, some people are still unwilling to let their social media die. New tools such as Dead Social and LivesOn are emerging that automate posts from your Facebook and Twitter accounts after your death. This seems incredibly morbid, but the companies say their aim is to provide comfort for mourning families. Doctor Michael Arnold from Melbourne University backs up this claim:

"Think for example of the number of people who use a deceased person's voicemail message over and over again. They know they're dead, they know it's simply a recording, but it's a comfort to hear that person's voice. Similarly, it can be a comfort for some people to continue to receive tweets, to continue to receive emails."

nakedsecurity.sophos.com

Ultimately, what happens to your online presence after you pass should be up to you, we just need the laws to catch up with the tech.


Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. Currently working part time as a content writer, he hopes to one day drop that 'aspiring' prefix. Follow him @SamAtSMF

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Mourners Call Out For Easier Access to Deceased Relatives Social Media Reviewed by Sam Bonson on Tuesday, January 13, 2015 Rating: 5
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