As more and more of our lives and businesses are being shared and conducted online, there is a growing problem to contend with – what happens to our online presence after we die? Facebook have introduced a new “Facebook heir” feature which aims to solve this issue.
Users will be able to appoint an heir who will take care of their account after their death. Heirs will be able to pin posts to the person’s timeline, respond to friend requests and change profile pictures. However, heirs will be restricted from any other changes including deleting photos and creating new posts. Previously, Facebook would simply “memorialise” a person’s page after they passed away, meaning that their page remained online but was frozen and could not be changed under any circumstances.
It is thought that these new features are being made as a response to many family’s wishes to use their loved one’s Facebook page as a memorial. The digital heir feature will first be introduced in the USA on the 19th of this month, and will roll out in other countries shortly after. Heirs can be chosen in the security settings of accounts and users will only be allowed to select one person. However, Facebook have said that if someone does not choose a heir in their account but names someone in their actual will, they shall honour the choice.
In 2013 Google also introduced a similar digital heir system which allowed it’s users to decide what will happen with the data if they become inactive for a long period of time or pass away. It’s hoped that this new feature will help shape the digital afterlife and protect data and privacy, which is a growing concern for many people today. This is a reflection of how social media and online data has become such an important part of our lives, and illustrates the need for constant evolution in order to keep up with the changing demands of today’s users.