Facebook has some new answers for what happens to your account when you die

Facebook’s Look Back videos have inspired more than parodies. The response to them — which included a dad’s plea to see his dead son’s video — has prompted the social network to change some of its policies about the accounts of users who die.

First: It used to be that only Facebook friends could access the memorialized page of someone who has died. Now, the social network will honor the wishes of the deceased, so whatever privacy settings you applied to your posts and photos when you were alive will still apply. If some posts were public, they will remain so, as will the posts that were meant for certain eyes only.

Also, the loved ones of someone who has died can now request a Look Back video of that person. This change, Facebook noted in a blog post Friday, was brought about after a Missouri dad, John Berlin, asked Facebook to create a Look Back video for his son who had died a couple of years ago.

“We had not initially made the videos for memorialized accounts, but John’s request touched the hearts of everyone who heard it, including ours,” Facebook said.

As we live our lives online, Facebook isn’t the only social network or website dealing with the tricky questions that arise when someone dies. As we wrote last year, Google lets users plan ahead about what to do with their Gmail, Picasa photos, YouTube videos and more after they die. Users of Google services can bequeath some of their “digital assets.” What about your clever tweets? Twitter will deactivate your account if your family or estate submits a death certificate. Yahoo’s terms of service say the company will “terminate” (could they have chosen a different word?) your account after it receives a death certificate. After it verifies some information it requests via an online form, LinkedIn says it will delete the profile of a person who has died.

What about those who aren’t on Facebook? Brandon Bailey wrote about some services that offer ways to memorialize friends and family. But as it stands now, Facebook’s latest moves probably mean it will dominate online memorials.

Illustration by Jeff Durham/BANG archives


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