Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fate of Your Social Media Content When You Die

Will your digital self vanish when your physical self dies? Have you ever thought about that?

Your photos, poems, statements, art, video, jokes, rants, everything that defined you as a social media participant -- will it have value for your children, siblings, parents, friends? Or will your social media legacy not matter?

What have you done to ensure the preservation of your social media content in the event of your death?

Facebook, for example, removes from public view all the content a deceased person posted, keeping it all on their servers, but not letting anyone see it. They leave the profile, so friends and family can post condolence messages. Big deal. They retain all the content that the dead person posted. The content is retained by Facebook for future potential, like history or monetary value that may be attached to the content.

"You have not been active on this account for 12 months. If you wish for your profile to continue to exist, you must log in and perform some action on it. Otherwise, we will delete your account as inactive and abandoned."

But you're dead and your surviving family members and friends were not left with instructions for maintaining your social media presences.

Jason Mazzone, law professor at the University of Illinois, says a Federal law is necessary and states in "Digital Afterlife":

“It’s becoming increasingly common for people to have digital assets, and some of them do actually have value,” he said. “Not only are such sites repositories of intellectual property, they also are important to family members and friends. Historians of the future will likely depend upon digital archives to reconstruct the past, which creates a real problem, particularly in an age when we don’t leave diaries, and, increasingly, people don’t write books.”

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