Memorializing Facebook Profiles

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.
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:
Hi Max,
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,
User Operations

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



6 comments about "Memorializing Facebook Profiles".
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  1. Chris Lorenzoni from Velti, March 13, 2009 at 11:02 a.m.

    thanks for this article, i have often wondered what becomes of social network sites and/or email accounts of the deceased. good to see what Facebook is doing and I send my condolences for your cousin.

  2. Arthur Greenwald from Greenwald Media, March 13, 2009 at 11:21 a.m.

    Nice column sensitively written. Steve from Avusa makes a good point, though which Facebook and others will eventually have to make part of their policy. Is a "memorialized" profile labeled in some way to label the person as deceased? If so, this opens up liability issues familiar to newspapers, alumni publications, etc.

  3. Devin Davis from G5 Search Marketing, March 13, 2009 at 12:24 p.m.

    This was clearly a very personal story Max - thanks for sharing. It's good to hear Facebook has such a policy for the deceased and I agree with you that using such an account to memorialize a lost loved one is a good way to help deal with loss.

    Facebook got this one right...

  4. Lisbeth Kramer from Identities, March 13, 2009 at 2:06 p.m.


    Thanks so much for sharing this. Kind of wonderful to hear this when so many and I do find too, that our wonderful worlds of innovative connection, leave a void in the arena of human touch.........this is kind of cool in bridging that gap and I think its wonderful you have shared such a touching story that could move social connection forward from a different headset.
    So sorry for your loss and I bet she is smiling brightly......

  5. Missy Rounthwaite, March 13, 2009 at 2:32 p.m.

    Thank you so much for addressing this. We lost a dear friend recently and keep his facebook page alive to remember his life. This will definitely be an increasing phenomenon in the digital world.

  6. Thomas Trumble from Jack Morton Worldwide, March 13, 2009 at 2:38 p.m.

    I hope that I don't need to use this service any time soon, but good to know that it is there and how it works.

    BTW - shared this on Facebook and the title of the post and description does not appear. You might want to have that resolved.

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