We’ve all seen terrible movies like White Noise before where the basic premise is that unsettled souls exist all around us and communicate through various disturbances in electronic communication. Yes, their plot line is that my great-great-grandfather can talk to me through my Kitchenaid Mixer. Sure.
But, there is a rather new topic as to what happens to your electronic identity once you pass on? Blogs, email accounts, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter accounts… where do they go? Better yet, if some super advanced species happens upon an Earth in ruins, will we be forever immortalized in some hard drive sectors somewhere? This would be the equivalent of archaeologists uncovering old Egyptian scripts and learning about their ancient culture. The one thing that I know I would not want representative of our times is if this advanced being opens up a MySpace profile and immediately has to look for the pause button to stop the bleeding from the ears known as Nickelback… But I digress.
Several popular online services have protocols in place that protect the deceased. For example, Gmail will allow access to the next-of-kin upon the submission of a death certificate and other means of proof of identity. More here.
Facebook has a bit of a different procedure in that they will not delete a deceased person’s account, but they will memorialize that person’s profile (use this form to issue a request). They remove status updates but allow wall posts from friends only.
MySpace will not allow the next of kin to edit or delete, but they will remove a deceased person’s profile upon an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org. I wonder what would happen if I sent an email requesting that the soon-to-be-deceased MySpace be removed?
So that’s that. If it’s your desire to have your online identity taken down upon your death, be sure to leave a note with all the passwords in a safe place. Better yet, leave your next-of-kin’s email address as your alternate so they may be able to use the forgotten password forms to access your account. But, please please please, take down those Nickelback autoplay widgets… really, it’s an embarrassment to society and I’d hate for an alien to uncover your profile first…