Friday, March 13, 2009
Memorializing Facebook Profiles
By Max Kalehoff Relationships -- whether physical or in the virtual world -- are the fabric of life, and one inevitable fact in life and relationships is death. So it is natural that as the Internet and social media become more ingrained in people's lives and identities, death and mourning will follow accordingly. We're so early in the evolution of the Internet that death is not something we intuitively associate with the Web, nor is it something we completely understand. But one thing is clear: we all will eventually embrace its presence and impact.
I wrote the above passage two years ago. And I was right about the eventual part.
Here's why: Tuesday, Feb. 24, was my cousin Ariel's birthday, and Facebook sent me a friend update to remind me. She was to turn sixteen. The problem was that she passed away in May last year, following a horrible battle with bone cancer. I immediately thought to myself that her Facebook profile still means a lot and should be preserved. A colleague told me I could contact Facebook and request they memorialize her profile, and I did.
Facebook's confirmation letter:
We are very sorry to hear about your loss. Per our policy for deceased users, we have memorialized Ariel's account. This removes certain more sensitive information and sets privacy so that only confirmed friends can see the profile or find Ariel in search. The Wall remains so that friends and family can leave posts in remembrance.
Unfortunately, we cannot provide login information for the account. This is to protect Ariel's privacy. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Please let me know if you have any further questions.
Thanks for contacting Facebook,
For a company that stumbles so often on privacy and data ownership, it seems to have gotten this policy right. Though, for the record, I never asked for login information. That was a bit strange and slightly offensive, and probably a symptom of institutional copy-and-paste.
Finally, if you would like to request that Facebook memorialize a profile, you can do so here. As I said, we all will eventually embrace the Web's presence and impact as we work through death and mourning.
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Max Kalehoff is vice president of marketing for Clickable, a search-marketing solution for small and mid-size businesses. He also writes AttentionMax.com
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