Feb 12, 2015 · 1 minute

Facebook will soon allow its users to pass their accounts on to others when they die.

The company is introducing a new feature that will allow consumers to choose "legacy contacts" who will be granted control over parts of the deceased's Facebook account.

Some of the perks of being named a legacy contact, like the ability to download an archive of the deceased's Facebook photos and status updates, are heartwarming.

Others, such as the ability to accept new friend requests sent to the account, are perhaps better described as "disturbing," "weird," and "likely to freak people out."

There are also restrictions in place to prevent legacy contacts from editing previous updates (no altering Facebook's records to hide grandma's racism) or viewing private messages (dad's affair is between him, Facebook, and his mistress) on the service.

The feature as a whole is part of the increasing need to figure out what happens to someone's digital detritus when they die. Can they pass on their digital media? Who will manage all their social accounts? Should anyone clear their browser history?

None of those questions are easily answered. And as the Wall Street Journal notes in its report on this new feature, that we have to worry about this at all is disconcerting:

It’s exhausting to think that Facebook has become so interwoven into our lives that we not only have to think about setting our birthdays, relationships and jobs in stone there, but now also our deaths. Still, Facebook’s new service empowers people to make choices about their data while they’re living, and for many, that’s a relief.
That might be a relief to some. But for the people who suffer a panic attack when they realize their new "friend" is dead? I don't think they'll find this quite as soothing.

[photo Hans Van Den Berg]