RIP? What happens to our social media accounts when we die?

By now you have probably either read or heard about the Facebook privacy breach by Cambridge Analytica. However, have you considered what happens to your Facebook data when you pass away?  Additionally, have you ever considered what would happen to your digital purchases when you pass away?

Social Media Accounts

Most mainstream Social Media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Google have policies in place for when you pass away. If you are interested these policies are often detailed in their end-user licence agreements or terms of service. As an example, Facebook’s policy is that when you pass away Facebook puts your account into a “read-only” mode.  This allows people to still view your account and post memorial messages on your “wall”. Facebook essentially freezes your account so nothing can be changed. The result is that any posts, likes or tags remain visible. Additionally, Facebook allows its users to nominate a “legacy contact”. This is a person who will have access to your account when you pass away. However, they cannot delete your profile.

Digital Assets

Apart from Social Media accounts, most people have made some digital purchase on iTunes or Kindle. A common misconception is that the only difference between purchasing and E-book or music from the iTunes Library in comparison to a physical book or CD is that one results in a tangible item. As a result, it is not uncommon for people to attempt to gift their iTunes collection. However, currently, iTunes does not allow this to occur since what you are buying when you purchase a song, book or movies off iTunes is a licence. As a result, you cannot technically gift these assets in your Will. This is not to say you cannot leave laptops or devices loaded with these assets onto them as gifts but if your beneficiary was to try to transfer these onto other devices there would be potential issues.

What to do?

There is no simple answer and what has been discussed above is only the proverbial “tip of the iceberg.” In the digital age technology often progresses more rapidly than the Law. There is clearly a deficiency in the current Wills and Estate and Privacy Laws in handling this area. As a result, the NSW Law reform commission is currently investigating the laws in place in comparison to the rest of the world. So watch this space as we can expect some changes in the next few years. In the meantime, it may be best to update your Social Media account settings and while you are there please follow us or give us a like!