Facebook Users Can Assign A 'Legacy Contact' To Manage Their Account Post Mortem

Facebook added a new feature that lets you decide what happens to your Facebook account in the untimely event of your death.

In recent years, following the death of a family member or friend, it has become common practice for users to leave farewell notes on the dearly departed's profile and messages to the surviving family members. As soon as Facebook found out, however, it would freeze the account and lock users out of commenting, which outraged some users that were unable to leave their goodbye posts.

The reason for freezing the accounts comes down to privacy issues. Technically, Facebook is required to prevent others from using accounts they don't own. While the users might have given control to an individual, Facebook is still required to prevent this from happening.

With this change, users can select another Facebook member who will be given some control over the account. If users don't wish to do this, then they also have the option of setting up the account to be deleted after their death.

If users do not choose either of these options beforehand, then the account will just be frozen at the time Facebook finds out about the person's passing. Facebook calls this process "memorialization." Memorialized profiles currently number in the hundreds of thousands.

Users who are given control of accounts after the passing of their loved ones are referred to as "legacy contacts." These users will have the ability to change and upload new photos, accept friend requests, leave wall posts, and download an archive of wall posts and pictures.

As of today, users can now go in and set a legacy contact. This can be changed any time before the user's passing. To set up a legacy contact, simply go to your Facebook settings and choose Security. At the bottom of the Security options will be a place to select a legacy contact. Just type the name of a user from your friends list and click Add.

Alternatively, you can click the check box below to have your account deleted should you pass away. It's notable that this feature is inside of the security section, as it really shows how great of a concern Facebook places on this option.

This change will please some users who wish to leave their accounts to someone after their death. However, it also comes as a rather hard reminder of how fused our lives have become with the Internet, technology, and online services such as Facebook.

Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+

Michael Justin Allen Sexton is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers hardware component news, specializing in CPUs and motherboards.
  • ART-T
    I understand the article to say, the reason for this is the privacy issue. I feel that Facebook may also have been sued, by people who wanted a family members site deleted. So they create this policy to avoid litigation in the future.

    The thing I felt when I first heard this on the radio was.... If Facebook enforces some sort of verification, that the exact John Doe users death certificate must match the date of the FB birthdate....

    Many people would not be able to do this in the future, as, most 'kids' lie about their age when they 1st create their online accounts to avoid being the 'minors that they are'.

    So later down the road. When Joe Smith (who created his account as a teen with a fake birthday) dies, and his wife tries to get some access, FB will say, 'that isn't the same Joe Smith, so 'no' to your request'
  • rayden54
    So if I want FB to close someone's account, I just get a bunch of people to post farewell messages on their walls?