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Facebook now allows you to name a person to serve as your legacy contact when you die. Facebook recently announced a new policy which makes it much easier for family members or friends to take care of your Facebook account when you die. Your legacy contact will be able to post things that appear at the top of your memorialized Timeline, respond to requests from friends and family members that may not have been connected to Facebook beforehand, and update profile pictures.
You can also allow your Legacy Contact to download an archive of your photos, posts, and profile information for safe keeping (no private messages will be saved). Of course, your Legacy Contact can also have your Facebook account permanently deleted if that’s what you prefer. Here is what you need to do to set it up:
Go to your Facebook account, and find Settings > Security > Legacy Contact.
Then type in the name of the person you would like to make your Legacy Contact.You have the option to send them a message to let them know, but it’s not required. Otherwise, they’ll be notified when Facebook becomes aware of your passing (but it does not seem wise to rely on that). Then select whether your Legacy Contact will have Data Archiving permission and whether or not you’d like your account to be deleted.
This may be unpleasant to think about, but it’s really for the people you care about in your life. Your passing will be hard on your loved ones, and giving someone the ability to either memorialize your account or delete it can help. It also keeps your account from becoming dormant, possibly to be hacked into later on.
Apparently this option is rolling out to over time, so not every account will have it at first. If you don’t have it yet, you’ll probably get it soon.
Facebook’s policy for memorializing a deceased user’s account has changed. No longer will a memorialized account have its visibility restricted to only friends of the deceased user. Instead, Facebook will preserve the same privacy and visibility settings that the deceased user had specified during lifetime. Also announced in the news release is the ability to request a “Look Back” movie for a deceased user’s account. Only a friend can make the request for a “Look Back” movie for a deceased user, and this request must be made after the deceased user’s Facebook account has been memorialized.
Most Terms of Service agreements for online accounts do not specify what happens when a user is incapacitated or after a user is deceased. Thus family members and the fiduciaries acting on behalf of the user face delays and obstacles in trying to access the user’s online accounts and other digital property. They may not have the user’s password. Or perhaps they cannot use the password because it violates the account’s Terms of Service, which potentially could be prosecuted under state or federal criminal laws including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Or, maybe the fiduciary has requested a copy of the contents of the deceased user’s online account, but the account provider is not able to divulge the contents without the lawful consent of the user because of the privacy protections under the federal Stored Communications Act. These are significant problems facing family members and fiduciaries when dealing with an incapacitated or deceased user’s online accounts and digital property.
Facebook’s Terms of Service agreement does not permit anyone to log into another user’s account, not even a deceased user’s account. Also note that Facebook will not reset or reveal the password of a deceased user’s account.
Hopefully someday users will be able to easily designate one or more beneficiaries or agents who could receive a copy of all (or a specified portion) of the user’s account contents after the user has died. This is an area of law that is likely to see many changes in the next few years. Stay tuned.