07:24 GMT29 May 2020
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    New statistics released by Oxford University authors have opened the door to conversation on the future and management of a social media user's personal information after they pass away.

    Academics at Oxford Internet Institute (OII) put together the population mortality data and the growing number of accounts on the social network giant, which led them to suggest that at least 1.4 billion of the site's around 2.3 billion users will die before 2100.    

    The study suggested that, provided that Facebook will continue to grow at a pace of 13% per year until it reaches a penetration rate of 100% for each country-year-age group, there will be 4.9 billion dead users on the site by the end of the century.

    "These statistics give rise to new and difficult questions around who has the right to all this data, how should it be managed in the best interests of the families and friends of the deceased and its use by future historians to understand the past. On a societal level, we have just begun asking these questions and we have a long way to go. The management of our digital remains will eventually affect everyone who uses social media, since all of us will one day pass away and leave our data behind. But the totality of the deceased user profiles also amounts to something larger than the sum of its parts. It is, or will at least become, part of our global digital heritage," lead author of the research, Carl Ohman, said.

    When a Facebook user passes away, the platform offers the option of memorializing their account.

    "Memorialised accounts are a place for friends and family to gather and share memories after a person has passed away. Memorialising an account also helps keep it secure by preventing anyone from logging into it," Facebook said.

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    While still alive, a Facebook user can choose and appoint "a legacy contact."

    This is someone to look after an account if it's memorialised.

    "We strongly suggest setting a legacy contact so your account can be managed once it's memorialized. A legacy contact can accept friend requests on behalf of a memorialised account, pin a tribute post to the profile and change the profile picture and cover photo. If the memorialised account has an area for tributes, a legacy contact will be able to decide who can see and who can post tributes," according to the social network.


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