After much debate and angst, Facebook has recently introduced a feature which is known as a Legacy Contact. When a person passes away, access to their social media accounts such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can become a legal nightmare so much so that there is now anecdotal evidence that some people are actually putting provision for access to their social media accounts into their Wills.

The online or social media presence of a deceased person can be both a stressful and upsetting problem to be required to deal with for the recently deceased persons immediate family. Facebook must be congratulated for acknowledging that a problem exists and providing a solution albeit an imperfect one in allowing users to nominate a Legacy Contact.

The Legacy Contact has permission to download and archive photos, posts and profile information that was shared on Facebook. All other settings will remain the same as before the account was memorialised. The account is shown as a memorialised account meaning that others in the online environment will be aware of your passing.

Questions remain about how what evidence Facebook requires before it will allow the Legacy Contact to “memoralise” the Facebook account of the deceased party. An obvious issue that springs to mind is the situation involving the couple in a bitter divorce or separation that might abuse the nomination as Legacy Contact and “murder” their spouse in an online context to cause mischief for their spouse. One can only wonder how Facebook will react to the news that one or more of their users, like Lazarus have arisen from the dead! How difficult will it be to reinstate an account that has been “memorialised”?

The private messages on Facebook cannot be accessed by the Legacy Contact. In and age where DVD’s made by the deceased and text messages have been admitted as Wills the Will of a deceased person in their private messages on Facebook is not entirely out of the realms of possibility. The need to access private messages for reasons of investigation or to compile evidence to continue a legal proceeding is another hurdle that will need to be overcome at some point in time.

Facebook is as usual a trail blazer and it will be interesting to see what develops from this point forward both in relation to the way that Facebook attempts to deal with issues like those raised here and how long it will take other social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter & Co. to follow suit and introduce a similar feature.

The law will always lag behind technology, development in this space in the shorter term is warranted.

Further information about adding a Legacy Contact can be found by following the link below: