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Security & privacy

What happens to your social media accounts when you die?

Last week, we told you about the heartbreaking story of parents in Germany who were denied access to their dead daughter’s Facebook account.

This unfortunate situation began back in 2012 when a 15-year-old girl died after being hit by a subway train in Berlin. The girl’s parents were worried that it may have been an act of suicide.

In an effort to find the truth, the parents wanted to access their daughter’s Facebook account to see if there were signs of bullying or anything else that could have led to her death. Facebook denied them access to the account stating that this will compromise the privacy of her contacts and the German courts agreed.

It is an unfortunate story but it really highlights the risk of having all your social media posts locked away or lost forever.

Social media services do provide mechanisms of protection and succession in the event of death. It’s important to review your account settings to ensure that your social media legacy will be supervised even after your passing.

Here’s what you can do with the top social media services:


For Facebook, you can appoint a “legacy contact.” Appointing a legacy contact gives them the power to manage your Facebook account after you pass on. You can also tell Facebook to delete your account if your legacy contact informs them of your death.

In the event of your passing, your legacy contact can: write a post to display at the top of the memorialized Timeline, respond to new friend requests from family members and friends who were not yet connected on Facebook, and update your profile picture and cover photo.

To assign a Facebook legacy contact, go to your Facebook Settings, select Account Settings, then Security and select Legacy Contact. Here, you can select from your list of Facebook contacts.

It’s important to note that a legacy contact won’t be able to log into the deceased’s Facebook account and post as him or her.


Gmail’s Inactive Account Manager enables you to set a timeframe before Google considers your account “inactive.” You can set intervals from 3, 6, 9 or 12 months. A month before this time expires, Google will send you an alert via email or text message. If you still haven’t logged in to your account by then, Google will notify your “Trusted Contacts” and share data with them depending on your privacy settings. You can select up to 10 Trusted Contacts from friends and family members from your Contacts list.

Click here to view your settings for your Google Inactive Account Manager. Here you can set your mobile contact number, alternate email address, timeout period, notify contacts and share data and an option to automatically delete your account when certain actions are completed.


Twitter does not really have legacy procedures in place but family members can request for the deactivation of a deceased or incapacitated user’s Twitter account via its Privacy Form.

Requests require the Twitter name and full name of the account owner, the requester’s full name, email and relationship to the account owner.


Instagram allows for memorialization of accounts via this Instagram Help Center reporting page. Instagram account memorialization requires proof of death such as a link to or a screenshot of an obituary.

Once an Instagram account is memorialized, logging in to that account will be disabled and it can’t be changed in any way. Likes, followers, tags, posts and comments will remain as they were and visible to the audience they were shared with. Although memorialized accounts will no longer appear in public searches, Instagram Direct can still be used to send photos or videos to the deceased’s account.

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