It has been reported that Facebook has introduced a new feature, which will enable people to have their account permanently deleted when they die, or to appoint a family member or friend - a legacy contact - to control certain parts of their account. Users will be able to choose somebody to manage their Facebook page when they die. The new feature will enable those given authority to perform a number of things once the account holder dies, including writing a post at the top of the memorialised timeline, update the cover photo, profile picture and even respond to new friend requests.

Facebook said the decision was made to support those who were grieving and wanted a say in what happened to the accounts of their loved ones. In a statement, Facebook said: "When a person passes away, their account can become a memorial of their life, friendships and experience."

Account holders may allow legacy contacts to download a whole archive of posts, photos and other profile information that they shared on Facebook, while they were alive. All other features will remain the same, as the legacy contact will not be authorized to login as the person who passed away and or see their private messages. Nor will legacy contacts be able to download a list of contacts, something that could prove to be useful for funeral preparations.

Before the legacy contact status can be made use of, or the account permanently deleted, the friend or family member must first go through a rigorous process to prove that the account holder has in fact passed away.

The new feature is being introduced only in the United States, but may be extended to other regions after its initial stages. Facebook is among the first Social media websites to have such post-death features. LinkedIn profiles belonging to users who die continue to exist, and it is not uncommon for people to get asked whether their dead family members and friends have certain skills. It remains to be seen just how successful this feature is, and whether Facebook decides to use it internationally or phase it away like many other recent experiments.