Today, friends and family members rarely have the information necessary to access social networking accounts belonging to people who have died.
“We live a lot of our life online these days,” Lisa Granberg told The Local.
“There are lots of cases today where friends and relatives of young people who’ve committed suicide or died in other ways can’t do anything to alter the information found online about whoever died.”
As a way to deal with the problem, Granberg has conceived of a service called Webwill, which will let registered users decide how they want their social networking profiles to change following their death.
“The service is designed to let the individual decide what will happen with their online profiles after they’re gone,” she said.
While some people may choose to have their Facebook or Flickr accounts shut down completely, others may instead elect to simply update their profile picture or send out a final message.
Webwill can also allow users to create a final blog post on Blogger, or have their a good bye email sent to friends from a web-based email service like Gmail or Hotmail.
The service will be tailored to mirror profile configuration options for any number of social networking site in order to change how their online profiles look when they are no long around to update them.
“It’s not so much about death, bur more about being in control of what will remain,” said Granberg.
“Users will be able to decide what can still be seen and who can see it.”
A user can even tell Webwill how to long to wait until after they’ve died before setting their plans into action. While some may want their accounts to be shut down immediately, others can wait up to several weeks before sending out a final Tweet from the afterlife.
Granberg developed Webwill as her final thesis at Beckmans College of Design and the initial version goes up for display at the college on Sunday.
The first version of the service relies on an electronic identification system currently used by most of Sweden’s banks and public authorities which gives users secure access to their services.
A user’s Webwill profile is therefore not only linked to his or her social network accounts, but also to Sweden’s central population registry.
“The site will check the registry every day, and once a person shows up in the registry as deceased, then Webwill will automatically carry out whatever actions that person had indicated,” said Granberg.
Granberg is confident that demand for Webwill exists well beyond Sweden’s borders.
“I’m certain there will be an international market for this,” she said.
At this point however, she remains hesitant about a specific timeline for the launch of the service in Sweden or elsewhere.
“I really have no idea,” she said.
“A lot depends on who we decide to partner with and how our strategy evolves. From a programming perspective, however, actually getting the site operating isn’t that difficult.”