Business Insider recently reported that 2.1 billion people access at least one of the Facebook, Messenger, Whatsapp or Instagram apps every day. That’s a little less than a third of the world’s population.
These platforms allow us to share various aspects of our lives. Some of us use them to document everything. But what happens to these accounts when a user passes away? Do their accounts remain on these platforms forever or can they be removed? Let’s take a look at four of the biggest social network platforms to see what their policies say.
Facebook users have the option of having their account permanently deleted or appointing a legacy contact to look after their “memorialized account.” A legacy contact is someone who is chosen to oversee an account if it is memorialized. The legacy contact must be 19 years or older. They can accept friend requests on the deceased’s behalf, pin tribute posts and change the account’s profile picture and cover photo.
Key features of memorialized accounts include the following:
- The word “Remembering” will appear next to the person’s name on their profile
- No one can log into the account
- The account will not appear in public spaces such as friend suggestions
- Content that was shared on Facebook while the deceased was alive will remain visible to the audience it was initially shared with
- Depending of the deceased’s privacy settings, friends of the deceased can share memories on the account’s timeline
Similarly to Facebook, Instagram accounts can also be permanently deleted or memorialized upon request. To remove the account, the user must provide proof that they are an immediate family member of the deceased. Proof may include the deceased’s birth or death certificate or proof of authority that the individual is the lawful representative of the deceased person or their estate. In order to memorialize an account, proof of death such as a link to an obituary or news article is required. A memorialized Instagram account will not appear differently from an account that has not been memorialized.
Instagram’s memorialized accounts have the following key features:
- No one can log into the account
- Posts shared on the account stay on Instagram and will remain visible to the audience they were initially shared with
- Changes will not be able to be made to any of the account’s existing posts or information
Unlike Facebook, a legacy contact cannot be appointed for a memorialized Instagram account.
A colleague, classmate or loved one can request the removal of the deceased’s profile by filling out this form. The form requires several pieces of information such as the applicant’s relationship to the deceased, the link to the deceased’s obituary and the company the deceased most recently worked at.
A verified immediate family member or someone who is authorized to act on behalf of the estate can request the removal of the deceased’s account. A request requires information about the deceased, a copy of ID from the individual making the request and a copy of the deceased’s death certificate.
Thanks for reading!
Ian M. Hull and Celine Dookie
Given the prevalence of scepticism amongst lawyers (see my earlierblog), it is entirely in keeping with character for lawyers to be slow to openly embrace social media.
Judging from a recent study, it would seem that this might be doubly so for Canadian lawyers. In this article about Digital Life, the world’s largest study into consumers’ digital behaviours and attitudes ever conducted, the following observations were made about Canadians’ online activities:
- Canada lags in digital engagement.
- Canadians aren’t much for blogging.
- Canadians are average picture-sharers.
- Canadians do less social networking, more email.
- Canadians spend less time on social networking sites on their mobile devices.
- Canadians will be slower to transition social networking on mobile phones.
- With an average of 150 friends in our social networks, Canadians are not as "friendly" as consumers in some other countries.
If the President of the United States can win an election based in part on social media strategy, then even the most sceptical of lawyers cannot deny there just might be something to it. Barack Obama has so many friends on facebook and contacts on LinkedIn that even I am a 3rd level connection.
We have also seen this week much texting and tweeting from the courtroom during the sentencing hearing of Russell Williams. Justice Robert Scott agreed to allow the media to use electronic devices for the purpose of taking notes but said any use of laptops, handheld communications or recording devices must be done an a way that was not obtrusive to the court process.
Social media is a pretty big wave. It is changing our behaviour and it is here to stay. Whether you are a Canadian, a lawyer, or both, you might as well just hang on and enjoy the ride!
Sharon Davis – Click here for more information on Sharon Davis.