What happens when one of Facebook’s 1.39 billion monthly active users dies? If you live in the United Kingdom, you can appoint an heir to it.
The social network is rolling its “legal contacts” feature out in the UK. It allows users to appoint an “online executor” to their profile. In other words, it lets them choose someone to decide what happens with their Facebook in the event of their demise.
To nominate a legacy contact, users go into their settings, choose “security” and then “legacy contact” at the bottom of the page.
After a user passes away, the legacy contact basically acts as an administrator. They can write one last post, update the cover photo, change the profile picture, and even approve new friend requests. If the user allows it, the legacy contact can even download an archive of their photos, posts, and profile information from their Facebook account.
“The legacy contact is chosen by the account holder, so it’s somebody that they trust and who knows them really well, so they’ll be able to decide who to add and whether to change the profile picture or pin a post,” said said Facebook product manager Vanessa Callison-Burch.
According to Facebook, the user’s privacy and audience settings will remain as they were set before the account was memorialized. The legacy contact won’t be able to log in as the user, and won’t be able to see their private messages. They’ll only act as an admin.
At the same time, choosing someone to be a legacy contact can be a rather difficult undertaking. As Stuart Heritage, a writer for The Guardian explains, ” I’d feel weird giving the responsibility to my wife or my son, because they’d already be exhausted by all the harrowing obligations that death entails. My mum? She has been on Facebook for three years and still hasn’t worked out how to upload a photo of herself, so that’s a no, too. My brother? Given the opportunity to update my profile picture — even in the immediate aftermath of my tragic death — he’d almost certainly dig out a photo in which I’m simultaneously chewing and blinking.”
For those who can’t seem to decide on a legacy contact as Heritage, Facebook has also allowed users to to instruct the social network to permanently delete their account when they pass away.
“Facebook is a place to share and connect with friends and family. For many of us, it’s also a place to remember and honor those we’ve lost,” said Callison-Burch. “When a person passes away, their account can become a memorial of their life, friendships and experiences.”