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What about my Facebook profile when I die?

Half of all Czechs have a Facebook profile and each of them leaves behind a fairly significant digital footprint. This may not be associated with their own name, but with a mere nickname. However, it can contain controversial and valuable data. Does anyone have the right to manage or cancel a profile after death? Can anyone inherit the rights to it?

Co s profilem na Facebooku, až zemřu?
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What can I have done with my profile after I die?

On Facebook, we often share not only our unforgettable experiences or outrage at the world today, but also a lot of pictures, videos and other very personal information. What happens to this content when a tragic event befalls us? Facebook offers two explicit options. You can tell it in advance if you want me to perpetuate your account or, conversely, permanently delete it. Removal is clear. All data, copyrighted works and space for inappropriate comments simply disappear.

In contrast, immortalized accounts are a place where friends and family can “gather” and share memories of the deceased person. You can designate a “Designated Contact Person” to manage such a profile, but even he or she does not have full control over it, cannot read old messages, and cannot impersonate the deceased.

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Can my family remove my profile?

Even if you do not do so, it is possible that your Facebook profile will be “hacked” in some way. It doesn’t matter whether the profile is under your real name or just an alias.

If Facebook receives information that someone has died, it is Facebook’s policy to perpetuate the account, not cancel it. You can report this on a separate form, but you need to include documentation that proves the person’s death (preferably a death certificate). However, if it bothers someone to see their loved one’s birthday anniversary in the news every year, it’s not a hopeless situation. Immediate family members or the executor of a will can also ask Facebook to cancel (remove) the account completely. However, Facebook carefully verifies whether the person has any relationship to the deceased at all and why the account should be “removed” in the first place. It is certainly not automatic. It is therefore advisable to prepare the deceased’s birth certificate and other documents proving the relationship as well as arguments why the account should be permanently deleted. However, a court order will probably be needed in the end.

For example, there have been previous court cases in the US where families have sought access to the accounts of tragically deceased children. Legislators in Delaware and Virginia have accommodated them and such disclosure can now be claimed more easily. Exactly how a court would rule in this country is not yet clear and would depend on the specific case. There is no “model” decision yet.

What about inheritance and protection of personality?

Copyright works on Facebook can be hooked into inheritance proceedings like any other. For example, one can imagine heirs demanding the release of photographs that are only on a profile and have more than just sentimental value to them in this way. Moreover, the new Civil Code expands the circle of persons who are entitled to claim protection of a person’s personality after his or her death. This can be any person close to the deceased (i.e. not only family, but also, for example, housemates). Thus, even after death, a person close to the deceased can demand, for example, the removal of offensive posts from Facebook that damage the memory of the deceased.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

Education
  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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