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Facebook faces digital afterlife

Social media giant set to roll out new feature that lets users choose an heir to look after their accounts when they die

FACEBOOK users in France should soon be able to choose what happens to their accounts after they die.

A new feature - which became available in the US yesterday and is set to be rolled out worldwide - will allow users to select a “Facebook heir”, who will look after the account and will be permitted to make certain changes.

It is believed to be a response to families’ wishes to use Facebook profiles to remember loved ones, and is similar to a "digital heir" scheme that was launched by Google in 2013.

The French model is expected to be similar to its US counterpart, but Facebook has said it will modify the feature according to the customs and practices of individual countries.

Under the new policy, users can also opt to have their accounts deleted altogether.

Facebook also honours the wishes of those who have made provisions in their wills over what happens to their “digital lives” - including any heirs to their social media accounts.

Le Monde reports that the chosen “heirs” will have the ability to act as the account’s administrator and will be able respond to post certain details such as funeral announcements as well as respond to friend requests and update profile pictures.

But they will be prevented from making other changes, such as deleting photographs.

Currently, Facebook freezes the accounts of any users who have not made a “digital will” after it has been formally notified that they have died. The pages remain online as an online memorial, but cannot be changed or updated.

Surviving family members must supply a death certificate for an account to be “memorialised”.

Users will choose their heirs using Facebook’s security settings. Only one heir can be chosen at any time, but can be changed if necessary.

Photo: English 106

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