Virtually everyone these days has some variety of social media accounts, whether it be Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or some other form of social media (the list appears to be never-ending). Encompassing more than just social media, nearly everyone has Internet and other electronic accounts that require maintained passwords to access. What happens to a person’s social media accounts when that person dies? Who has a right to access the password-maintained accounts? Fortunately, these issues are starting to receive attention and are being addressed.
Facebook now allows its members to designate a “legacy contact” to manage the deceased persons account (to some degree) posthumously, a feature just added a few short months ago. Facebook’s newsroom states:
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. When a person passes away, their account can become a memorial of their life, friendships and experiences.
Today we’re introducing a new feature that lets people choose a legacy contact—a family member or friend who can manage their account when they pass away. Once someone lets us know that a person has passed away, we will memorialize the account and the legacy contact will be able to:
- Write a post to display at the top of the memorialized Timeline (for example, to announce a memorial service or share a special message)
- Respond to new friend requests from family members and friends who were not yet connected on Facebook
- Update the profile picture and cover photo
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.
Alternatively, people can let us know if they’d prefer to have their Facebook account permanently deleted after death.