What happens to your Facebook profile when you die has long been an important, if controversial, issue. Now, the social network will let you designate a 'legacy contact' to take care of your profile when you die.

The Wall Street Journal reports will finally allow a person of your choosing to manage certain aspects of a user's account posthumously. In the past, Facebook's policy has been to freeze your account upon death—allowing it to serve, it claimed, as a memorial. But in reality it was probably a neat solution to the worrying privacy implications of allowing someone else access to the profile. Understandably, the policy upset and angered some people who'd lost loved ones.

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Now, a designated Facebook legacy contact will be able to manage an account so that it can be turned into a more appropriate memorial. They'll be able to write a post that's displayed at the top of the profile, change profile images on the page, and, err, even respond to new friend requests on behalf of the deceased. That last one does, admittedly, sound a little weird, but not to worry. Prior permission will also allow them to download an archive of posts and photos (but not private messages).

The legacy contact won't be able to edit what the deceased already posted, what friends continue to post on the page, or remove tagged images. Nor will they be able to delete the account.

To choose a legacy contact, you need to head into Settings, choose Security, then Legacy Contact at the bottom of the page. There, you designate an existing Facebook friend and grant them permissions. You can only choose one person—there's no emergency back-up in case you both meet a sticky end together. If you don't choose a legacy contact on Facebook but do name a digital heir in your will, Facebook will designate that person when they're told about it.

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It's quite something that Facebook is now such an integral part of our lives that this is all a thing. But it's nice to see that the social network is, finally, taking it so seriously. [WSJ]

Image by Franco Bouly under Creative Commons license