By Jessica Richard
Facebook is allowing users to choose a legacy contact who will have access to their Facebook after they die. It is being introduced in the United States first and then will be expanding to other countries in the future.
From the Facebook newsroom, product manager Vanessa Callison-Burch, content strategist Jasmine Probst and software engineer Mark Govea, explained that after Facebook is notified of a person’s death, a legacy contact takes over.
The previously chosen 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
A legacy contact will not have access to private messages, will not be able to post on behalf of the user or be able to change the ‘about me’ page, maintaining the deceased person’s privacy.
The Facebook team said the feature exists so that the account, “can become a memorial of their life, friendships and experiences.”
Alternatively, a person can choose to have their account permanently deleted after they die.
Previously when someone died, accounts were still viewable but not manageable. “By talking to people who have experienced loss, we realized there is more we can do to support those who are grieving and those who want a say in what happens to their account after death,” online release said.
“I like the idea of it,” said Jenna Ryan, a Facebook user. “When funeral homes do obituaries on their website they usually have the option for friends or family to memorialize the page for years to come, for a fee. This seems like a better option. It’s just so much more personal.”
Beckie Laine-Cox, a St. Catharines resident, whose son Jesse died several years ago, said she was lucky to be able to gain access to his account because he left his passwords saved on his iPod.
“If you could have seen my face when I logged in for the first time; it was like I still had him, or at least a part of him back,” she said. “It has been great therapy for me. Sometimes heartbreaking but it’s what I needed and still need.”
Laine-Cox also said that it is an “awesome idea” for Facebook to be making it easier for someone to be able to maintain an account after a loved one dies. She has met several other mothers who have lost children that have not been able to gain access to their children’s account after passing. They have even tried asking Facebook for help, to no avail.
Judy Micieli, a St. Catharines resident, also lost her son, Nick, to a tragic accident. She had access to his Facebook but found it was an infringement on his personal life, so she created a memorial group instead.
“It’s proven to remain a blessing to both my husband and myself, as well as countless others who knew and loved Nick,” she said. “It’s been a source of shared grief, memories, stories, tears, laughs and videos that have helped us along this grief journey!”
Her feelings of invading her son’s privacy will not be an issue with this new policy since a legacy contact would not be able to access the private contents of the deceased’s account.
For more information on how to select a legacy contact, when available in your country, click here.