Let's Start Talking - Digital Death

Let's Start Talking - Digital Death

12 Jul 2019

13 million Brits want ‘data-death’ after they die

  • One in four (24%) think social media and email accounts should be automatically removed on someone’s passing
  • But vast majority haven’t spoken about what they want to happen to their profiles after they die
  • Experts at LifeSearch are urging people to start these important conversations

Millions of Brits are fearful of what will happen to their social media profiles and email accounts after they die, with one in four (24%) saying they would support ‘data-death’ to accompany their actual passing – the equivalent of nearly 13 million people across the UK. 

The new study by the UK’s leading life insurance broker, LifeSearch, demonstrates the range of issues that people are failing to prepare for when it comes to dying, largely because they’re uncomfortable talking about death2.

While the emotional wellbeing and financial security of loved ones are top death concerns, more than one in 10 (12%) are worried about the fate of their digital accounts after passing and the majority of us 92% haven’t prepared for this eventuality by telling our loved ones their wishes for their digital presence after death. 

Our concerns stem from a range of factors including worrying that social media and email accounts could be hacked and upset loved ones (44%), not wanting private data and messages to become available (40%) and preferring certain elements of profiles to be automatically deleted (40%). 

Currently, when a person passes away, loved ones face substantial paperwork to deactivate social profiles and mail accounts. Processes differ between sites and providers, but can include having to provide death certificates, sharing copies of ID, filling in forms and giving extensive information about the deceased –  and some will only work with immediate family3. 

However it is not just online privacy that is cause for concern post-death. Two in five (39%)4 would like to be able to leave friends and family a digital legacy, where they can access certain assets such as music, photos and subscriptions. This could be an automatic process or even involve a nominated person acting on their behalf with their digital accounts after they die. 

LifeSearch is now seeking to prompt conversations about such issues as part of its Let’s Start Talking campaign, which encourages the nation to be more open about the subjects that make us uncomfortable, including death, illness, money and mental health. 

Emma Walker from LifeSearch commented:

“With our online presence increasingly a part of every day life, it’s important that we consider what will happen to our social media profiles, email accounts and the thousands of photos, videos and memories that go with them.

“Understandably it’s something that not many of us are keen to discuss, but avoiding essential conversations about our digital life after death could leave our loved ones locked out, unable to take control or at the mercy of hackers should the worst happen.

“Protection all starts with one open, honest conversation so we’re urging the nation to start talking openly and honestly - if awkardly - about these issues that matter most, to not only safeguard their family’s future, but their own too.”

LifeSearch has created a range of guidance around the issue, including advice on how to set out your wishes for your ‘Digital Life After Death’ [LINK] to ensure everyone can have their wishes met.

Notes to the Editors
Omnibus research was conducted by CensusWide on behalf of LifeSearch. This was an online poll of 2,053 adults aged 16+ and a national representative spread. The research was conducted between 19 June 2019 and 21 June 2019. 

The LifeSearch ‘Let’s Start Talking’ Report was released in March 2019 and polled 2,031 people between 17th and 21st February 2019. The data was weighted to be a national representative sample. Full report is available here.

1 There are 53,534,872 adults aged over 16 in the UK, according to CensusWide. 24% of respondents in the survey think social media and email accounts should be automatically removed after someone’s passing unless otherwise agreed by the user. 24% of 53,534, 872 = 12,848,369
2 LifeSearch research from March 2019 found that 24% of respondents don’t like talking about death.
3 This refers to 39% of respondents who are worried about their digital presence when they die.
4 https://help.twitter.com/en/rules-and-policies/contact-twitter-about-a-deceased-family-members-account

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