If you want to protect your online reputation forever you need to develop an online reputation management strategy that can be put into place after your death.

Facebook recently released a feature in the US to help users safeguard their online reputation beyond the grave.

Your online reputation will outlive you

There are a number of reasons, both professional and personal, why you should protect your online reputation – while you’re alive. But have you thought about why it could be equally important to ensure your online reputation is safeguarded once you pass away?

Your reputation online will outlive you – the social media accounts attached to your name will remain unless you take steps for them to be deactivated. If someone chooses to post unwanted content concerning you on one of your social media accounts after you have died, there’s nothing you can do about it.

The authority of these sites, left unchecked, will ensure that this unwanted content rises up to register on the first page of a Google search for your name.

What can be done with your digital assets once you pass away?

Some social media networks allow you to specify what happens to your digital assets in the event of your death, while others require you to appoint somebody to take action on your behalf:

Twitter: The network only accept requests from those authorised to act on an account holder’s behalf or a member of the user’s immediate family. To deactivate an account in the event of a user’s death, the authorise person is required to fax or mail the network with a username, a copy of the death certificate, a copy of the account holder’s government issued ID and a signed statement containing a list of additionally required information – click here for more details.

Pinterest: The network refuses to give out a user’s login information but allows a deceased ‘Pinner’s’ account to be deactivated. To do so, you should email Pinterest with a list of required information along with the relevant death certificate and an obituary or link to a news article as proof of death of the account holder.

Instagram: The network’s privacy policy requires the person acting on behalf of a deceased account holder to contact Instagram via email if they wish to deactivate an account. All subsequent communication to ensure the account is deactivated will take place via email.

Google or Gmail accounts: While in some circumstances the search engine will provide Google or Gmail account information to an “authorised representative” in the event of an account holder’s death, this is not standard practice. However, in 2013 the search engine launched a feature to help users plot out their “digital afterlives.” The site’s Inactive Account Manager allows users to detail to Google what they would like to happen with their digital asset after their account has been inactive for a certain amount of time.

Yahoo account: Yahoo does not issue user information, no matter how much authority those requesting it have. Representatives of deceased persons should contact the network via email, letter or fax. To deactivate an account on behalf of someone who has died, Yahoo requires the deceased user’s Yahoo ID, a copy of the death certificate, and proof that the person contacting the network has been given permission to act on the deceased’s behalf, as well as a letter of request.

Facebook: Arguably the most popular social networking site on the planet, Facebook provides two ways to protect user’s profiles in the event of their death. Firstly, someone acting on a user’s behalf (immediate family members only) are able to contact the site to close the account. To do so they need to complete a special request for deceased persons account form. Secondly the person acting on a deceased user’s behalf can ask for the content to be turned into a memorial page. Essentially this leaves the page as it is, and prevents it from being referenced by an active user on the site.

Facebook launches legacy contact feature

Recently Facebook launched a new feature in the US to provide users with a way to ensure that they can appoint somebody to control their account in the event of their death. A recent article in the Guardian, refers to the feature as the ‘legacy contact’.

Using this tool in Facebook’s security options, users are able to appoint a trusted family member or friend to take control of their account after their death. The person acting is permitted to create one last post , manage friend requests, archive content, update the cover and profile photos, alter posts already published on the site and download an archive of photos and posts – but not your private messages.

As such the Facebook legacy contact should prove a valuable new tool that will allow users to protect your profile and protect their online reputation, and ensure unwanted content does not appear on your page.

Protect your reputation online forever

Although Facebook’s legacy contact has only been launched in the US so far, it could be launched in other countries such as the UK. Coupled with a strategy to ensure every digital asset you own is protected should you pass away, Facebook’s legacy contact can help you safeguard your reputation online forever.

If you would like to discuss protecting your online reputation please contact Simon Wadsworth on telephone +44 (0) 203 542 8686 or email simon@igniyte.com – all enquiries are treated in confidence.

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