Online Reputation Die

Your online reputation has a life of its own…even after you die

Here’s a spooky thought: there’s a good chance your online reputation could outlive you on the web – and still be vulnerable to attacks.

Have you ever wondered what will happen to your digital information after you’re gone? It’s a morbid topic, but no less important than dividing up your estate or making plans for your life insurance. Even once you’re no longer posting or “liking” on networks like Facebook, it’s possible that your name will stay active, unless you take plans to deactivate it. And if you don’t, you leave it to the whims of whichever company controls your data – or hackers that manage to steal it.

Some systems already exist to help cope with this situation. Facebook lets you turn the page of a recently departed loved one into a memorial site. Google has recently announced a service currently called “Inactive Account Manager” to allow you to set up “retirement” plans for your profiles after they go a certain amount of time without being used. This is worth considering even if you have no plans of shuffling off this mortal coil any time soon, as it’s a way of keeping forgotten email addresses and other services from cluttering up your computer and impacting your online reputation.

It sounds like something out of William Gibson, the concept of “uploading yourself” to live forever on the internet. But it’s happening all around us; there are even ominous reports of the accounts of deceased Facebook users suddenly being attached to things they may or may not have ever actually “liked.” It’s just another example that proves if you don’t take the reins to control your online reputation, the people who own it will.  Take advantage of the tools being offered to you to make sure your information isn’t doing anything without your knowledge, and won’t do so after you’re gone.  

John Sileo is an online reputation expert and keynote speaker on identity theft, cyber security and fraud. His clients have included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent media appearances on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.