Given the important role that social network sites play in online bereavement practices, we are exploring issues around inheritance and post-mortem data management of Facebook accounts. We are finding that people focus less on ownership of data, and instead on the duties and potential conflicts associated with maintaining accounts post-mortem.
“Stewardship” is an alternative to inheritance when designing for post-mortem data management practices. Our research on post-mortem data management activities highlights how stewards are accountable and responsible to the deceased and various survivors. However, weighing competing responsibilities is complicated by varied relationships with disparate survivors, as well as the inability to consult with the deceased.
Post-mortem solutions need to account for the needs of stewards in addition to those of the deceased and survivors. Stewardship as a model better accounts for the interpersonal responsibilities that accompany online data than inheritance alone.