NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Facebook has launched a measure to make it easier to plan for your online afterlife.
The world’s biggest online social network said Thursday that it will now let users pick someone who can manage their account after they die. Previously, the accounts were “memorialized” after death, or locked so that no one could log in.
CBS News explained that there is no precedent or will when it comes to dealing with what a person leaves behind online after he passes, there. People have been making it up as they go along, and learning the hard way.
For one example, the parents of a Virginia teen couldn’t get access to their son’s Facebook account after he committed suicide. Their struggle led to a new state law ensuring parents would be granted access after the death of a child, CBS News reported.
Now, beginning in the U.S., Facebook users can now pick a “legacy contact” to post on their page after they die, respond to new friend requests and update their profile picture and cover photo. Users can also have their accounts deleted after their death, which was not possible before.
If you want someone to manage your account after you die, click on the upside-down triangle on the top right corner of your page and find “security settings.” For U.S. users there will be an option to edit your legacy contact, who must be a Facebook user. But you don’t have to pick someone else to manage your account. You can also check a box to permanently delete your account when you die.
The person you choose to manage your account won’t be notified of your choice until your Facebook account is memorialized. But you can choose to send them a message right away.
Accounts are memorialized at the request of loved ones, who must provide proof of the person’s death, such as an obituary. Facebook tries to ensure that the account of the dead user doesn’t show up as a “suggested friend” or in other ways that could upset the person’s loved ones.
“This is a baby step,” said CNET’s Bridget Carey. “Maybe in the future they’ll have more rights you can give to someone else.”
Google launched a similar feature in 2013. Its “Inactive Account Manager” tool applies to Gmail, Drive, Google+ and YouTube, CBS News reported.
Facebook, which has nearly 1.4 billion users, won’t say how many accounts are memorialized, though Facebook product manager Vanessa Callison-Burch said there have been “hundreds of thousands” of requests from loved ones to do so.
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