When someone dies in the 21st Century, a very modern problem is left behind – their social media accounts.
With more than 1.5 billion users, Facebook is estimated to have round 30 million profiles from users who have already passed away, with figures released last year suggesting that around 8,000 Facebook users die per day.
It is fair to assume that few people would have left usernames and passwords with a friend or relative to close their accounts after they are gone.
And even if they had, privacy laws and the terms and conditions of the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as many email providers prohibit anyone other than the account holder from logging into the account.
Some social networks make it easier than others for loved ones to close the profiles or turn certain pages into pages of remembrance once someone has passed away. However, in other cases it can be quite a lengthy process to get the account of someone who has died taken offline.
So if you have ever wondered what happens to your social media accounts when you die or if you have unfortunately lost a loved one, here is a quick guide.
In 2015, Facebook launched its ‘Legacy Contact’ feature, which offers a way of surviving friends and family to take limited control of your profile should you pass on.
The legacy contact won’t be able to sign into your profile or read any of your messages but will be able to respond to new friend requests and update your profile or cover photos.
Once the legacy contact make a final post, your page profile will then be memorialised by Facebook, this allows other to post messages of remembrance on the page.
Any inappropriate or offensive messages can then be removed by the legacy contact.
Alternatively, the legacy contact can choose to remove your Facebook profile completely.
In the event of death, Twitter says that it will work with the person who is authorised to act on behalf of the estate of the deceased, or with someone who they can verify as being a family member.
However, before the account can be deactivated, Twitter needs to see documentation such as a valid ID from the person dealing with the estate and a copy of a death certificate.
Twitter is also very strict about giving access to anyone who is not the account holder, no matter what their relationship was with the deceased.
The rules surrounding email differ depending on provider.
Gmail, for example, has a process where you can apply for the content of a deceased person’s email.
Users are also able to set up an Inactive Account Manager which you can choose to either share or delete emails if the account has been inactive for a certain period of time.
Yahoo has a similar procedure where it can grant family members access to an email account providing they can provide valid ID and other documentation.
However, Apple’s iCloud accounts are subject to different rules altogether.
In its terms and conditions, the Cupertino firm says: “You agree that your Account is non-transferable and that any rights to your Apple ID or Content within your Account terminate upon your death.
“Upon receipt of a copy of a death certificate your Account may be terminated and all Content within your Account deleted.”