Social Networking Post Mortem

I set out to investigate what might happen to my online identity if I were to pass away.  Here’s what a few online services say about the deceased in their terms of service.

“When we are notified that a user has died, we will generally, but are not obligated to, keep the user’s account active under a special memorialized status for a period of time determined by us to allow other users to post and view comments.”

Yahoo (Flickr)
“No Right of Survivorship and Non-Transferability. You agree that your Yahoo! account is non-transferable and any rights to your Yahoo! ID or contents within your account terminate upon your death. Upon receipt of a copy of a death certificate, your account may be terminated and all contents therein permanently deleted.”


MySpace does not have an official policy in their terms of service, but I found the following in a CBS News article. “MySpace said in a statement it handles deceased members’ pages on a “case-by-case basis” and does not “allow anyone to assume control of a deceased user’s profile.” Profiles can be deleted if that’s requested by family members.”

Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, Brightkite, ClaimID, and Pownce don’t seem to have anything formal in their terms.  So, in short, they aren’t obligated to do anything.  My digital identity might live on, or it might not.  What is it going to take to bring this issue to the forefront and force the proprietors of the social web to address it?  I suppose only time will tell.

Re-posted from Field Notes

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