Think about your digital legacy

26th August 2015

More of us are using using social media in one form or another.  Have you thought about what happens to your Facebook, Twitter or Linked In accounts (amongst others) when you die?

Facebook, the world’s most popular social network, has begun allowing its members to designate someone, referred to as a ‘legacy contact’ to manage parts of the account on a member’s death. This feature was rolled out in the United States in February of this year and it is now possible for Facebook users in the UK to appoint a post mortem representative who will be able to decide what will happen to their profile after their death.

The so-called ‘legacy contact’ feature allows the appointed representative to write a final post and update photos, as well as be able to download the deceased’s public profile as an archive. However, the representative will not be given access to private messages and will not be able to edit what the deceased has already posted. In addition they will not be able to delete the whole account. By placing such restrictions on the representative, Facebook is aiming to respect the wishes of the deceased while being sensitive to their family and friends.

To select your ‘legacy contact’ – go to Settings > choose Security > then Legacy Contact at the bottom of the page. There you can designate an existing Facebook friend which will grant that person permission to download an archive of your data.  Your appointed representative will be sent an email notifying them of your choice. So, either they will accept the appointment or they can tell you that they don’t wish to act giving you the option to select someone else. It is important to note that only one person can be chosen although, it is possible to amend your choice at any time.

Should you not wish to appoint a ‘legacy contact’ it is also possible to instruct Facebook to permanently delete the account on death by clicking in the appropriate checkbox. In cases where a digital heir is appointed in your Will, Facebook will designate that person. If no action is taken, Facebook will simply freeze the account and leave posts and pictures at the privacy settings you determined – a process it calls memorialization.

In summary, considering what should happen to your digital media is growing in importance especially as it gives family members the ability to retrieve sentimental material which could otherwise be lost.