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Researchers Say Facebook’s Dead Users Could Outnumber the Living Within 50 Years


Billions of Facebook users could be dead by 2100, raising the issue of data privacy for the deceased

A new paper claims that if the social media site’s growth continues at its current rate, 4.6 billion users will be dead by the end of this century. The potential size of this online graveyard has sparked discussions around who should have ownership of this digital history.

“‘These statistics give rise to new and difficult questions around who has the right to all this data, how should it be managed in the best interests of the families and friends of the deceased and its use by future historians to understand the past,’ lead author Carl Öhman, a doctoral candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute, said in a press release.”

The authors say that this paper should be viewed as a thought experiment bringing to light the issue of how our data will live on past our deaths. Currently, Facebook has implemented a legacy contacts feature, wherein a nominated person takes control of a user’s profile when they die.

How the platform reckons with its dead - and how archivists, historians and technology ethicists grapple with how to save our collective digital history from a for-profit company - remains to be seen

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