The digitalization of our era always brings interesting issues that our moms and dads have certainly never had to think about. One of those that I have encountered a few times already is how to properly transfer your online life and assets in the grim possibility of your untimely death. While there are some good and some not-so-good suggestions thrown around, Facebook decided to make a firm step in that direction and just this last Thursday introduced the new Legacy Contact feature.
The Legacy Contact can be set from the Security page of your account. If not specified otherwize, this contact will have limited control to your profile, giving them the ability to pin a last post for you, respond to incoming friend requests, change your profile photo and/or create an archive of your photos. No access to messages or any of your account settings. This comes as an addition to the current option to Memorialize an account. When an account holder passed away, a friend/relative would submit a Memorialization request to the administrators for review, in which they could include proof (ex. death certificate).
However, without this proof and no online obituary, those reviews rarely reached an acceptable outcome for the concerned. The final goal of the new feature is clear – having a clear procedure in time of death and a trusted person in charge of your online persona. This does raise some questions tho…
If the person has access to archive your photos, wouldn’t they be able to see the ones protected by your privacy settings too? If someone had temporary access to your account (like in you leaving your browser open with Facebook logged in) wouldn’t they be able to put themselves as a legacy contact? How will this change the reporting process as the aggrieved would still seem to have some proof of death at hand? Would the legacy contact be able to use the account in bad faith (as in liking business pages, raising the count for groups etc)? And the biggest question….aren’t we too concerned about something so trivial as a social networking account when we are…well…dead?
I do see the moral standpoint of FB production manager Vanessa Callison-Burch who announced the change. Giving access to a family member can be used to announce details of the funeral for anyone who wants to pay their respects. The photo archive can certainly make for a great collection of memories of our loved ones. And the “Remembering” label in front of the name is indeed a nice touch. But doesn’t defy the whole idea of “resting in peace”?
A lot of questions going through my head really and I will be glad to hear your opinions on this matter? Are you pro or against having a Legacy Contact and do you really feel you need one? Would you like your profile to still exist somewhere or a complete deletion is the answer? The comment section awaits you.