A Death on Facebook? Social Media and Posthumous Profiles

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Due to their size, online platforms and social networking services are increasingly having to deal with the question of deceased users. Facebook offers to either memorilise or delete Facebook accounts after the user has died, while other companies such as Google may allow access, but only after extremely laborious processes, which include mailing legal identification and death certificates. Google has the additional challenge of linked services, meaning deleting the overall user account also deletes content such as YouTube videos by the deceased user. Google, however, has made strides in this area recently with a Inactive Account Manger, although that, too has its limitations. In general, official digital death policies are very blunt. Emerging digital legacy and asset management companies are allowing users to bequeath their online profiles and tools to others, allowing more complex posthumous management and curation. Digital death will increasingly need to be addressed, and more nuanced options made available, as the number of deceased users grows, while more and more of their legacy is only available online.

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A Death on Facebook? Social Media and Posthumous Profiles

  1. 1. A Death on Facebook? Social Media and Posthumous Profiles. Dr Tama Leaver, Curtin University Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J 24.10.2013
  2. 2. Outline  Facebook  Google  Emerging Solutions and Future Directions IR14 Preconference Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J 23.10.2013
  3. 3. Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  4. 4. I. Facebook Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  5. 5. Facebook: Memorialize (Default) or Delete  Source: https://www.facebook.com/help?page=842 Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  6. 6. Facebook: Memorializing Accounts  Source: https://www.facebook.com/help?page=842 Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  7. 7. No ownership  No digital assets, no digital will.  ‘Rights’ revert to Facebook. Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  8. 8. Facebook …  ALL (memorial) or NOTHING (deleted).  No CURATION of the final memorialised page. (Many loved ones ‘drive’ the account after someone dies since they’ve been left the password).  CONTEXT COLLAPSE (Marwick and boyd, 2011).  Memorialised = space to remember, space to post about the deceased.  Also memorial pages (created specifically, not timelines) but that brings the grief trolls. 25.09.2013 Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  9. 9. Sustainable? It’s hard to sell ads to dead people. But you can sell ads at the funeral. Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  10. 10. II. Google Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  11. 11. Single Sign-On.  All your Google eggs in one basket.  Deleting a Google Account (eg delete Gmail) now kills everything else (eg YouTube videos). IR14 Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J 24.10.2013
  12. 12. Google Inactive Account Manager IR14 Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J 24.10.2013
  13. 13. Minimum Timeout Period 3 Months … IR14 Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J 24.10.2013
  14. 14. Share or Delete. IR14 Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J 24.10.2013
  15. 15. III. Emerging Solutions and Future Directions Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  16. 16. Perpetu (and other legacy managers) IR14 Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J 24.10.2013
  17. 17. Summary & Recommendations  at present the official policies of social media companies and online corporations are minimal and relatively blunt;  where a single account or authentication service is a gateway to different tools, services and content, there should be some ability to separate and curate these posthumously, allowing final curatorial decisions by digital executors;  due to the lack of available options and the lack of awareness of official options, many users resort to ad hoc responses, such as transferring control of online profiles to immediate family members after a user’s death (ie leaving the password) which currently violates most Terms of Use etc; IR14 Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J 24.10.2013
  18. 18. Summary & Recommendations  as digital executors and online wills increasingly address social media, policies and practices will need to emerge which provide more fine-grained control over the digital legacies; and  private corporations will increasingly need to officialise their position on the maintenance of posthumous profiles, and re-evauluate these positions in light of actual uses;  Companies should commitment to either maintain or export the user data of deceased users in accordance with their wishes. IR14 Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J 24.10.2013

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