When it started Facebook was an online place to connect with college friends. It became wildly successful and now all sorts of people are connecting around the world. Facebook is growing up and now dealing with the adult issue of death. The laws covering what happens to a person’s assets, in this case their digital assets, are being discussed and this new move by Facebook defies or maybe outwits the upcoming legislation focusing on death in the digital age.
The “Digital Assets Act” is in the works and reportedly Facebook is among those resisting it being the standard by lobbying states to stop them from proceeding with it. This “Act,” intended to assist those who are charged with settling an estate, would give them access to passwords and other online information of the deceased.
Facebook has come up with an alternative to divulging the password of one’s Facebook Page. In fact they have three options for users to employ.
For those who already made out their last will and testament clearly spelling out their wishes should they not defy death, well, the only move left is determining what to do with their Facebook account. The options are pretty simple to complete.
For one option the owner of a page simply adds what is called a “Legacy Contact.” This contact then takes over managing the page upon the demise of the page owner. Identifying someone as a legacy contact allows them to log on to the deceased’s account. There are limitations to this access, such as not being able to edit what is already posted or anything that friends post on the page. Only after verification that someone has the authority will Facebook delete the account.
They must be a Facebook user to become the legacy contact and as such will be able to accept friend requests as well as post. Additionally, this person will be able to continue posting to the page and change both the profile and cover pictures. So that friends of the deceased are not unnecessarily upset, no notification of picture changes will go out to friends, in other words these changes will not be added to anyone’s timeline where profile updates appear.
There is a selection, when setting up the legacy contact, to be able to download information from the account like pictures or posts. Messages are not included in what can be retrieved by the contact.
Once a legacy contact is chosen, it is up to the page owner whether or not they are informed. The contact can be changed any time, again without notifying the person selected.
Another option for those who plan ahead is to choose to simply delete the account. Then there is an option for those who may plan ahead but do not care or choose to not plan at all and for them, they can do nothing. The account can then be memorialized by anyone who can provide the documentation required for proof of death.
Once notified of the death, Facebook will also let visitors know of the death in gentle way by adding the word “Remembering” before the name listed on the page. With at least two of the options offering ways to notify friends that a person is no longer on this Earth, anyone can make a move to defy death and live on in Facebook. For those left behind it could be of great comfort to revisit the memories posted there.
By Ailey Hines
Photo by Marco Paköeningrat – License