TORONTO – Facebook will now allow users to have a say in what happens to their account in the event of their death. The social network is rolling out a new feature that allows users to select a “legacy contact” who can take control of their account after they die.
A legacy contact would be able to choose what happens to the account – presumably based on your wishes – whether it be memorialized or deleted entirely.
The legacy contact would be able a write a post to display at the top of your memorialized page, change your profile picture and accept new friend requests. The person would even be able to download an archive of posts and photos from the account if granted permission – but they would not have access to your private messages.
However, your legacy contact must be someone on your friends list – in other words, they have to be on Facebook.
Previously Facebook allowed friends and family members to request that a person’s account be memorialized if they passed away, or request the removal of the account altogether.
Currently, if an account is memorialized the word “Remembering” shows up next to the profile name and the account is removed from features like “People You may Know,” ads and birthday reminders. But the account is effectively frozen – no one can log into it, or change any of the information.
The ability to choose a legacy contact is only available to users in the U.S. at the moment. Canadian users can look up information about what happens to their account after they die and read about legacy contacts, but the page reads, “This feature isn’t available in your country yet.”
Facebook usually rolls out new features to U.S. users first. It’s unclear when Canadian users will be able to choose their legacy contacts.
There is a catch, though – users are only able to select one legacy contact. As the Wall Street Journal points out, this could cause a dilemma for partners or spouses who travel together because they can’t pick a backup.
In 2013, Google introduced a similar feature called “Inactive account manager,” which allows users to tell Google what to do with Gmail messages and data from other services in case your account becomes “inactive” (Google’s polite way of mentioning death).
Users can choose to have their data deleted after three to 12 months of inactivity, or select a friend or family member to receive the data.