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Facebook's New Feature: When You Die

Facebook is now letting you decide what happens to your account when you die. The social network is allowing users to designate someone as what they call a "legacy contact", to manage parts of your account after you die. Or you can chose to have your presence deleted entirely. 

It has become quite a difficult job for Facebook between respecting the privacy of the deceased and meeting the demands of grieving friends and family. Up until now Facebook would automatically freeze the accounts of member they learned had died. This angered family members who wanted to edit the deceased's online presence. It all seems a little bit morbid however it is bringing clarity to an issue that is both legally and emotionally challenging. Google actually became the first major internet company to allow users to select digital heirs for its gmail, cloud storage and other services. 

This new approach will begin for members in the U.S. on thursday with others to follow soon after. 

The Facebook legacy contact will be able to manage the account in a way that will turn the deceased person's Facebook page into a kind of digital gravestone. Legacy contacts can write a post to display at the top of their friends memorialized profile page, change the friends profile picture and even respond to new friend requests on behalf of the deceased. 

If also granted prior permission the legacy contact can download and archive posts and photos from the deceased, but not the contents of his or her private messages. 

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Being a legacy contact is different from simply logging into the account of the deceased, there are many restrictions placed on this responsibility. Firstly, they can’t edit what the deceased has already posted, or what his or her friends post on the page. So basically if you decide to post a photo while you are living that looks embarrassing when you are gone, your legacy contact can’t do anything about it. A legacy contact also can’t decide to delete a whole account.These restrictions might upset some people who think their job as a caretaker is to maintain a Facebook page as the nicest possible memorial however Facebook spokesperson Jodi Seth has said “We gave this a lot of thought, and ultimately decided against it for this first version." Facebook feared that curation responsibilities might add an extra emotional load to grieving, among other concerns.

To select your legacy contact, go to Settings and choose Security and then Legacy Contact at the bottom of the page—it’s the same for the Facebook website or mobile app. There you can designate an existing Facebook friend (in other words, only someone who’s already part of the social network), grant that person permission to download an archive of your data, or choose to have your account deleted after death.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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