The deceased can outlast the live ones as Facebook users within half a century, something that could have serious implications in the way the digital inheritance is addressed in the future.
This is clear from a study conducted by Carl Öhman and David Watson, of the Internet Institute of Oxford , in a work published in the journal .
The researchers indicate that, according to user levels in 2018, at least 1.4 billion Facebook members will die before 2100 . In this scenario, the dead could surpass the living in 2070.
However, if the world’s largest social network continues to expand at the current rate, the number of deceased users could reach 4,900 million before the end of this century. In both cases, most of the profiles belong to non-Western users.
“These statistics give rise to new and difficult questions about who is entitled to all these data, how they should be handled in the best interest of the families and friends of the deceased, and their use by future historians to understand the past,” says Öhman, lead author of the study and a doctoral student at the Oxford Internet Institute.
“At a social level, we have just started asking these questions and we have a long way to go.
David Watson, co-author of the research, points out that “never before in history has such a vast archive of human behavior and culture been gathered in one place”.
“The control of this file will be, in a certain sense, the control of our history. Therefore, it is important that we make sure that access to this historical data is not limited to a single for-profit company. It is also important to ensure that future generations can use our digital heritage to understand its history, “he adds.
The analysis establishes two potential extreme scenarios taking into account that the future trend of using Facebook will fall somewhere in between. The first scenario assumes that there will be no new users after 2018 . Under these conditions, the proportion of users killed in Asia increases rapidly to represent almost 44% of the total at the end of the century. Almost half of those profiles come from India and Indonesia, which together represent almost 279 million members dead on Facebook for the year 2100.
The second scenario assumes that Facebook will continue to grow at its current annual rate of 13% worldwide until each market reaches saturation. Under these conditions, Africa will constitute an increasing proportion of dead users, especially Nigeria, since it would represent more than 6% of the total.
The predictions of the study are based on data from the United Nations , which provide the expected number of deaths and total populations for each country in the world distributed by age, and Facebook data extracted from the company’s Audience Insights function.