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The Facebook Death Policy, Your Profile after Your Death

By Syed Ahad Hussain
On March 28, 2011

Our obsession over posting our personal details on Facebook grows every other minute. Among the 500 million Facebook users, over 375,000 American Facebook users will pass away this year. This means that more than one Facebook user dies every 90 seconds, according to an estimate made by the New York Times. When posting every major and minor personal detail, we don't think for a second of what will happen to our profile after our death. Not only can your profile become a target of internet predators, but your identity can be stolen as well.

In a October, 2009 New York Times article, Max Kelly, the Head of Security for Facebook announced that, "The Company's policy of "memorializing" profiles of users who have died, taking them out of the public search results, sealing them from any future log-in attempts and leaving the wall open for family and friends to pay their respects. We understand how difficult it can be for people to be reminded of those who are no longer with them, which is why it's important when someone passes away that their friends or family contact Facebook to request that a profile be memorialized."

This is problematic, because the Wall of deceased people becomes a target for internet predators and perverts who begin to post hateful, abusive, and derogatory comments. This is an obvious problem, since no one can remove or prevent the wall posts if they're dead. Likewise, if a close relative of the deceased person joins Facebook, he or she obviously can't add the deceased friend on their Friends List, nor are they allowed access to the photos and other posts of the deceased.

Problem also lies in the fact that people don't want their profiles to be permanently deleted and they choose to be ‘remembered' digitally, as indicated by the research firm comScore Inc. When asked what people want to happen to their Facebook profiles after their deaths, people were given the options to either: memorialize it, transfer it to a friend and/or a relative, permanently delete it or I don't care; a majority choose the first option. Most people rejected the option given by Facebook which allows the person who files the Facebook's death proof form which allows Facebook to permanently delete the profile.

In my opinion, Facebook should prompt all newly registering users to provide emergency contact information of some sort of ‘beholder' or ‘guardian' of their profiles who can have access to their posts after their death, delete any abusive comments and claim full responsibility for their online properties. As Facebook's members grow in population, it almost becomes impossible to keep track of the death of members and contacting their relatives if they are on Facebook.

Using digital asset protection websites such as Entrustet could be a good option to protect privacy and prevent identity theft in cases of death. A second option is to not post any personal stuff at all when you're alive and limit yourself by thinking before posting anything. Out of these options, I choose the second option.

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