Worried about your Facebook profile after you die? Fret no more …

12 Feb 2015

Social networking behemoth Facebook is now letting US users assign a next of kin-type contact to manage their profile after they pass away.

Following in Google’s footsteps – the first major IT company that allowed designated digital heirs to manage its services after users died – Facebook now allows US users to assign a ‘Legacy Contact’ to manage their account after they have gone.

The chosen heir can then write a post to display at the top of the memorialised timeline, respond to new friend requests from family members and friends who were not yet connected on Facebook, and update the profile picture and cover photo.

What they can’t do is delete stuff you posted when you were still alive, nor can they delete posts made by others onto your profile after you have died.

First version, not the last

The heir also can’t delete the entire account, something the company did consider, but “ultimately decided against it for the first version,” said Facebook spokesperson Jodi Seth.

But it’s still a whole lot more accessible than before, when the privacy of deceased users was the paramount concern and relinquishing access to these accounts was not possible.

Legacy on Facebook

The new legacy contact tool allows Facebook users to plan their profiles for when they die

“By talking to people who have experienced loss, we realised there is more we can do to support those who are grieving and those who want a say in what happens to their account after death,” said Facebook’s Vanessa Callison-Burch.

Also the memorialised pages – which already existed and were initiated when Facebook was notified of a death, but did not allow any editing – will now include ‘remembering’ above the name of the user.

Easy to do

To choose your legacy contact, go to your security settings and click ‘legacy contact’ at the bottom of the page. From there it’s pretty straight forward.

Legacy run through

Step-by-step guide to choose a ‘Legacy Contact’, in Facebook security settings. All images via Facebook

“We’re introducing legacy contacts in the US first and look forward to expanding to more countries. Setting up a legacy contact is completely optional,” said Callison-Burch.

“Our team at Facebook is grateful and humbled to be working on these improvements. We hope this work will help people experience loss with a greater sense of possibility, comfort and support.”

Social media death image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic