It sounds morbid, but Facebook security product manager Melissa Luu-Van says that you should be prepared to die: For every online account you have, you should make sure someone can access it if you’re gone.
“A lot of people don’t immediately think about this as a part of their digital security, but it’s really important,” she says.
Facebook launched “legacy contacts” earlier this year to let users pick a friend who will get limited control over their accounts when they die. Legacy contacts can respond to new friend requests, write pinned posts at the top of the Timeline, download content, and update cover and profile photos.
Facebook’s new Security Check-up feature runs through the process of setting up this contact, but Luu-Van says that she and the rest of the Facebook team want to encourage people to set up similar benefactors on all of their accounts.
Email, social media, and online banking accounts all store important information and memories — and setting up official digital “heirs” ensures you can control what information you want to be accessible, and what you want to stay private.
“This stuff is super important to consider, even if it’s not something you want to be thinking about day-to-day,” Luu-Van says. “Do you want someone to be able to access these things and manage them on your behalf? You need to set up a way for someone to take care of your affairs if something happens to you.”
Google has offered inactive account manager options since 2013, and Luu-Van says that more and more companies are releasing their own options.
Facebook used to freeze Facebook profiles, but received hundreds of thousands of requests from people asking for another way to stay connected with their loved ones and on the profile instead of in a group. That’s how legacy contacts was born.
Here’s what a memoralized Facebook account looks like:
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