You can finally decide what happens to your Facebook account when you die.
In a change of heart, the world’s most popular social network will begin allowing its members to appoint someone—what they call a “legacy contact”—to manage parts of their accounts posthumously. Members can also choose to have their presence deleted entirely.
Starting today, Facebook users from the United States have received a new feature for their accounts: remaining in the online world even after they passed away through something called a “legacy contact”. However intriguing this new option might be, experts urge users to give it a long thought before choosing who will be the contact to represent them post-mortem.
The freshly launched feature will allow users to write a sort of digital will. They can choose between two options of what will happen with their account after they pass away: it can be deleted or, they can appoint a “legacy contact” by accessing the website’s security page.
The task of the designated legacy contact is simple: they must log on their own Facebook account, give a name and a death date, and also a link to the obituary of the deceased. After a thorough verification of the data, the specified account will officially become “memorialized”. What does that mean? It means that the deceased’s profile will show the word “remembering” next to their name.
There are specific things that the legacy contact can or cannot access after the data has been verified. For example, their access is restricted from private messages and chats. On the other hand, they will be allowed to accept new friend requests, post announcements and change the profile picture, all this after Facebook has processed the so-called “memorialization request”.
In your will, Facebook lets you decide whether you want to let your legacy contact download all the data you ever posted on Facebook, such as pictures, statuses, posts and any other information you shared during your life. This also means that anything that you might not have previously published in a public manner, also falls under the control and responsibility of the legacy contact. In this category we count photos, any kind of artwork or writings you added on Facebook, but did not make public.
Asking us to make plans for a digital afterlife may sound morbid, but it can bring clarity to an issue that’s both legally and emotionally challenging. In 2013, Google became the first major Internet company to allow users to select digital heirs for its Gmail, cloud storage and other services, dubbed “inactive account managers.”
While Facebook has to tread the line between privacy and utility quite carefully, the process for “proving” that someone has died, which you have to do to enable the memorializing of an account – or to get it deleted – can be distressing.
In practice, and this is written through distressing, bitter experience, it’s much more useful to write your Facebook password on a piece of paper and seal it with any other documents to be left after your death so that your designated loved one has full control of your account and can use it to co-ordinate many of the mundane things which have to be done after someone dies.
While the Facebook Legacy system is far from perfect, it’s still very much better than LinkedIn, which regularly asks if friends and colleagues who died many years ago have certain skills.
Here’s how to choose a legacy contact:
Open your settings. Choose Security and then Legacy Contact at the bottom of the page.
After choosing your legacy contact, you’ll have the option to send a message to that person.
You may give your legacy contact permission to download an archive of the posts, photos and profile info you’ve shared on Facebook.