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Posted: February 23, 2014

Facebook changes policy for profiles of deceased users


By Jake Godin

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As if there weren't already enough reasons to be careful about what you say on social media, Facebook is now leaving the profiles of deceased users exactly as they were when they were alive. 

Previously, Facebook's process for memorializing a profile included making it private to all but the family and friends of the deceased person. Now, whatever settings the profile had while a person was alive will remain after they're gone. 

Facebook announced the change in policy in a blog post on Friday saying, "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."

Naturally, death is a very delicate topic and Facebook has to be careful with announcements like this. Some may see keeping public profiles the way they were as  just wrong. 

Such as the folks at Valleywag, who in response to the announcement wrote this: 

"What it sounds like: Let's respect the wishes of the dead.

What it actually is: Let's take advantage of the fact that our privacy settings are still hugely inconsistent and confusing. No one can whine about that when they're dead!"

Alternatively, Facebook is simply trying to keep their policy in line with what users want. 

Earlier this year, a father tearfully asked Facebook to allow him access to his dead son's "Look Back" video, a video highlighting a person's activities on Facebook. 

The plea eventually reached Facebook which has now decided to allow users to request Look Back videos for their deceased loved ones. Even so, a writer for Gigaom thought that Facebook's handling of peoples' profiles still isn't quite enough, saying: 

"Ultimately, it will be necessary for governments to update the ticket of probate and estate laws already on the books to take account of our new digital lifestyles. ... Until they do, we can expect to hear more stories like the one about the grieving father on YouTube."

Along with the changes announced Friday, Facebook said they still had more to share regarding bereavement on their social network in the coming months. 

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