Facebook recently revealed their new death policy, and it’s stirring up a lot of controversy. In the past, the policy was that deceased individual’s accounts would be memorialized, or restricted to friends-only viewing. The new policy, however, allows the accounts to remain public if that’s the way they were in the first place. Facebook’s reasoning for this change of policy is as follows, “This will allow people to see memorialized profiles in a manner consistent with the deceased person’s expectations of privacy. We are respecting the choices a person made in life while giving their extended community of family and friends ongoing visibility to the same content they could always see.”
This change in policy makes it seem as though users are consciously making their own memorial when they create a Facebook account. As one blogger sees it, this new policy is way out of line: “Early, especially tragic, or newsworthy deaths subject online profiles to unusual and unsettling scrutiny. Imagine you survived some sort of public event that landed you on TV, or in the paper. You might be inclined to tighten your online privacy settings to avoid unwanted attention. Or simply to hide, at least from people who don’t know you well, those pictures from your raucous birthday party the week before. Now, imagine you didn’t survive: Is the last thing you posted on Facebook fit to be your public legacy? How about the first thing? Did you think, as you uploaded that last photo, that you were helping design your own public funeral program?”
With the recent release of Facebook’s ‘looking back’ videos, many families and friends of deceased individuals reached out to Facebook to try and gain access to their lost loved one. The process to go about validating the individual’s identity involves going through an authentication process. At least in this regard Facebook is protecting the privacy rights of the deceased – after all, being a ‘Facebook friend’ doesn’t necessarily have any bearing in their relationship in the real non-virtual world.
What do you think? Do you think this new policy oversteps bounds or is a reasonable step for Facebook to take?
Herrman, John. (2014). Facebook will now ‘maintain the visibility’ of dead users’ profiles.