Our online privacy after we pass away

What Happens to Us Online After We Go Permanently Offline?

Your social media accounts will probably outlive you. So, what happens to them after you are gone? Well, it depends.

For centuries, death has been seen as an end to our world. But now, the afterlife could take a whole new meaning with our digital presence still on the web.

Much of what we do online exists in the cloud. Previously, things used to be offline. Nowadays, we can carry out various activities online, regardless of our physical presence. If you look at it, the entire document of our lives is up, on the cloud.

Since our digital footprint continues to live, it lays enormous importance on how we share and where we share our information. If we don't have complete access to our online data, how do we make sure we can safely pass our complex data on to our next generation? That seems to be the misfortune we have in today's digital era.

Digital Currency

Social sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest amongst various others have taken the conventional place of family maintained albums and shifted our primary focus on iCloud, Google Photos, Dropbox, etc.

Digital Currency

Moreover, online banking transactions can be conveniently managed through smart apps. We're leaving an awful lot of cash on the cloud. According to experts, there is $5 billion worth of unclaimed assets in Canada alone.

From PayPal accounts to online game winnings, digital currency often goes missing when someone passes away.

So what should a person do if their loved one leaves behind a digital life?

On Twitter, there are only two options, leave the account alone or request to have it deactivated. Contact Twitter's support.


On Facebook, you can select a legacy contact in an event you pass away. Legacy contacts have the ability to memorialize a person's account in an event they pass away by writing a pinned post, responding to new friend requests and updating profile and cover photos.


Facebook has a policy of memorializing an account even if no legacy contact was specified.

On Google, you can choose up to 10 people who can move your account forward, or the account becomes inactive through its 'inactive account manager' feature. This can be easily set up by defining a time you deem as 'inactive.'

Google Inactive Account Manager

As opposed to legacy contacts on Facebook, you can also nominate an individual to have complete access to your Google account, including email and chat histories, and they can download the data you identify. (You also have the option to restrict any access to your data).

On LinkedIn, Snapchat and Tumblr, there is no specified death-planning feature. However, these sites do offer some account management for the deceased.

  • LinkedIn will let a verified next-of-kin have the account removed.
  • Snapchat deletes the account of a deceased person at the request of a next-of-kin (with a death certificate).
  • Tumblr will let a next-of-kin request that an account is deleted.

Other than that, numerous sites such as Microsoft, Yahoo and others have comparatively common protocols in place for immediate family members to request the deletion of a deceased person’s account.

Age of Criminals

Criminals often take advantage of distracted and grieving relatives who often leave the account vulnerable. Hackers often target the obituary section and the possibility of identity theft is the greatest during the first 60 days after death.

Cyber Criminals

Hackers and cyber criminals are continuously looking for weak spots to target individuals who have passed away and immediately start brute force attacks on an individual's social presence to get access to their intricate data, making it rather urgent to adapt AES 256-bit encryption.

Social Media Companies

40,000 hours of YouTube videos, 80 million Instagram uploads, 1 Billion Dropbox files and 55 Million Facebook updates are made every single day. With so much happening online, if any one of these systems fails, everything is gone.

This raises the importance of ensuring the security of the information shared online.

Cloud – Is it?

When you think about the cloud and backup, there is a physical database based in a cold facility, making it quite convenient for a hacker to hack into the database and get access to your information.

Cloud Hosting

Our digital life will remain on the web unless someone we nominate deactivates our accounts. Other than that, we must be careful about the information we share online so that we are not abused, long after we are gone.

Ather Owais Ather Owais is a tech and cybersecurity enthusiast. He is a strong advocate for online privacy and security, following technological trends and their impact on today's digital era.

Have Your Say!!

1 Comment
  1. Cynthia C says:

    Thanks–I’m one of those people who doesn’t take the time to keep up with all of this and now I will pay more attention and make more plans.

Join 3 million+ users to embrace internet freedom

Signup for PureVPN to get complete online security and privacy with a hidden IP address and encrypted internet traffic.