Facebook is letting users in the US designate a “legacy contact” that can take control of an account after their death.
The new setting within Facebook’s security options allows a trusted family member or friend to make one last post on the behalf of the deceased. It also lets them manage friend requests, update the cover and profile photos and archive content.
Legacy contacts will also be able to download an archive of the deceased’s posts and photos, but not private messages, and they will not be able to alter posts already published on Facebook.
The move comes in response to the thousands of requests the social network gets when its users pass away leaving their account dormant – who then has control and who can shut it down?
Under the previous system, which is still in place in the UK, the account is either frozen, effectively turning it into an online memorial, or deleted in its entirety. The new control features will be rolled out to the US today, with other regions including the UK following at a later date.
Facebook has placed tight restrictions on the after-death control of accounts. Users can only select one legacy contact, meaning that if a user selects their partner and they both die in a car crash or similar, the legacy contact system falls down.
If users do not name a legacy contact, but do name a “digital heir” within their will, Facebook will designate that person as a legacy contact.
The new option for posthumous care of a Facebook account highlights an important issue of what happens to your digital possessions and persona when you die.
With people wracking up extensive digital legacies as they move through a progressively online world, it is something most people in the western world will have to deal with at least once in their lives.
This article was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Thursday 12th February 2015 13.15 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010