Facebook Offers ‘Permanent’ Online Memorials

Facebook is taking steps to help users safeguard the profiles of deceased friends and relatives while allowing others to save and share their memories online.

The result are “memorialized” profiles. Users need to provide proof of death as part of completing the online submission form to have a profile memorialized on the popular social network.

“When someone leaves us, they don’t leave our memories or our social network. To reflect that reality, we created the idea of ‘memorialized’ profiles as a place where people can save and share their memories of those who’ve passed,” said Max Kelly, chief of security at Facebook in a blog post this week announcing the service.

While it might seem odd the announcement came from Facebook’s security chief, Kelly points to a number of issues that make the connection clear.

“When an account is memorialized, we also set privacy so that only confirmed friends can see the profile or locate it in search,” he said in the post. “We try to protect the deceased’s privacy by removing sensitive information such as contact information and status updates.”

“Memorializing an account also prevents anyone from logging into it in the future, while still enabling friends and family to leave posts on the profile Wall in remembrance,” Kelly sad.

The new service adds a feature to Facebook that has been offered by dedicated online memorial and tribute sites for years. Virtual Memorials, started in 1996, hosts thousands of online memorial Web sites and posts a list of the most recent ones its home page. The site “celebrates the personal life story of a departed loved one.”

The home page of Remembered Forever includes a running ticker of names of the departed and photos of “featured memorials.”

There are also sites to memorialize your pets. Immortal Pets highlights featured memorials on its home page and lets users add pictures, music, and virtual candles in tribute to their pet. Users can share up to 100 pictures of their lost pet in the memorial gallery.

Kelly admitted that until recently Facebook hadn’t given much thought to what to do with profiles after the person dies.

“Obviously, we wanted to be able to model people’s relationships on Facebook, but how do you deal with an interaction with someone who is no longer able to log on?” he said.

Facebook users weigh in

Many of the 500+ comments on the blog post lauded Facebook for adding the profile memorials, though many used it as a forum to add to the growing chorus of complaints about Facebook’s recent redesign.

Some, like Facebook Andy October, suggested deleting status updates in the deceased’s profile, wasn’t a good idea.

“I’d like FB to make removing status updates added by a deceased as an option rather than a default,” he said. “Sometimes, status updates tell their story, and it may not always be a sad one. So, sometimes status updates are a celebration of their memory.”

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