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Facebook Adds “Legacy Contact” Option (Plus, I’m now on Twitter)

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Almost exactly one year ago, I posted about a policy change that Facebook had made with respect to accounts of deceased individuals (see “Facebook Makes Memorialized Accounts More Public“, February 25, 2014). Last year, Facebook’s change fixed the privacy settings for “memorialized accounts” so that they would not be changed after death.

When I concluded last year’s post, I noted the following about possible changes to come:

“Further policy changes are promised, and I look forward to seeing those adjustments. Facebook might take a cue from Google which allows you to either set your accounts to be deleted after a specific period of inactivity or to designate specific individuals to access and manage data.  In this way, your designated individual (sort of a digital executor) could adjust privacy settings as may be appropriate for the situation.”

Sure enough, on February 12, 2015, Facebook announced a new “Legacy Contact” feature that allows you to designate someone to look after your account after your death if it’s memorialized.

To designate a legacy contact, go to Settings > Security > Legacy Contact and follow the prompts. Facebook will ask you if you want to send a message right away to your designated legacy contact to let them know — a little weird, but a good idea.

If, on the other hand, you want your account deleted permanently after death, you can choose that option instead.

A legacy contact has limited powers though. Once your account is memorialized, your legacy contact will have the option to do things like:

  • Write a pinned post for your profile (ex: to share a final message on your behalf or provide information about a memorial service)
  • Respond to new friend requests (ex: old friends or family members who weren’t yet on Facebook)
  • Update your profile picture and cover photo

Things your legacy contact can’t do:

  • Log into your account
  • Remove or change past posts, photos and other things shared on your Timeline
  • Read messages you’ve sent to other friends
  • Remove any of your friends

This is a good start to allowing individuals to control the fate of their own Facebook page. My first impressions:

  • Your legacy contact obviously needs to be a Facebook user themselves.
  • There is no ability (yet) to name a backup legacy contact. Estate planners want to name backups for everything. It’s what we do.
  • And what happens after the legacy contact’s death? No succession plan?
  • Why not allow you to name a “team” (say, up to 3) to manage the page, and allow any or all of them to manage and to designate successors?

Clearly I’m over-thinking this.

What About Twitter?

Twitter takes a different tack. When notified of the death of a user, Twitter can work with a “person authorized to act on the behalf of the estate or with a verified immediate family member of the deceased to have an account deactivated.” (Twitter Policy Page). I think this probably makes sense. Twitter is probably a little less “personal” and doesn’t hold things like pictures in the way that Facebook does.

Speaking of Twitter…

Just last week, I officially became the last person to join Twitter. You can “follow” me @jeffgottlieblaw. I expect to use it primarily to share practice-related articles, links and updates, with brief commentary.

Now I jst nd 2 lrn how 2 get my pt a x in <140 chars n 2 deal w/phobia re: bad grmr n splng n no vwls, wsh me lck!

I’ll talk @u there!
 

And Finally, a Legislative Update…

Just this week (Feb. 18), the Illinois Senate introduced Senate Bill 1376 — the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. It’s very closely fashioned after the model Act created by the Uniform Law Commission. I discussed the model act last July here. I’ll keep an eye on the proposed legislation and, if it passes, I will provide a more detailed review of the terms.

Further policy changes are promised, and I look forward to seeing those adjustments.  Facebook might take a cue from Google which allows you to either set your accounts to be deleted after a specific period of inactivity or to designate specific individuals to access and manage data.  In this way, your designated individual (sort of a digital executor) could adjust privacy settings as may be appropriate for the situation. – See more at: /facebook-makes-memorialized-accounts-more-public/#sthash.DzF2rajp.dpuf