FACEBOOK even from BEYOND the GRAVE: CHOOSE your Legacy

I'm on a cloud not in one

A new feature from the brobdingnagian jabbercontent ad platform Facebook allows its users to bequeath control of their accounts to loved ones or other selectees when they die. It tries to tread the line between handing over full control and helping those who have lost someone use their memories and contacts to grieve.

For some time Facebook has had a “Memorialization” option which locks the account of a deceased person and stops the person from popping up in others' timelines.

The new legacy feature, rolling out soon in the US with other countries to follow, allows Facebook users to specify who should have limited control in the event of the user dying. One name can be selected from the account's security settings and optionally sends a message to the chosen contact.

People “inheriting” a dead person's Facebook account will be able to write a post to display at the top of the “memorialized” timeline. Facebook reckons this could be used, for example, to announce a memorial service or share a special message. They will also be able to respond to new friend requests from family members and friends and to update the deceased's profile picture and cover photo. The word “remembering” appears above the name of the person who has died.

If someone chooses, they may give their legacy contact permission to download an archive of the photos, posts and profile information they shared on Facebook. Other settings will remain the same as before the account was “memorialized”. The legacy contact will not be able to log in as the person who passed away or see that person’s private messages. Nor will they be able to download a list of the deceased's contacts, which is perhaps the single most useful thing Facebook could do for anyone who has to organise a funeral.

While Facebook has to tread the line between privacy and utility quite carefully, the process for “proving” that someone has died, which you have to do to enable the memorializing of an account – or to get it deleted – can be distressing.

In practice, and this is written through distressing, bitter experience, it’s much more useful to write your Facebook password on a piece of paper and seal it with any other documents to be left after your death so that your designated loved one has full control of your account and can use it to co-ordinate many of the mundane things which have to be done after someone dies.

While the Facebook Legacy system is far from perfect, it’s still very much better than LinkedIn - which regularly asks if friends and colleagues who died many years ago have certain skills. ®

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