Facebook offers the option of turning a personal profile into a memorial profile once the profile owner has been reported dead. The purpose of this function is to protect the privacy of the deceased in the first instance: once it goes into memorial mode, it will not be possible to log into the profile, even if you have the correct username and password or are a first-degree relative. This mechanism is also designed to protect other social network users from interacting with a deceased person’s profile. Once the profile becomes memorialized, it is no longer shown to friends in event invitations, photo tagging, and other suggestions such as appearing as ‘people you may know’ for those who are not yet his/her Facebook friends, all of which may serve as painful reminders of the death.
Anyone can report the death of a user to Facebook. Even complete strangers can report the death of a user with whom they are not friends on the service. In order for a profile to be memorialized, Facebook only require the completion of an online form and a link to an online obituary. Once Facebook receives this report, the personal profile becomes a memorial profile. This is a one-sided action by Facebook, and it is irreversible. Furthermore, you do not get any prior notice of this action being taken; one moment you can get into the account of the deceased, the next one you are locked out, without any option to regain access.
Therefore, there are a few things I recommend doing immediately after a death, as long as you still have access to the account. Expedience here cannot be over-emphasized: I have heard of a case where the dead person’s profile became memorialized a single day after the death:
- If you do not yet have a Facebook account of your own, open an account, send a friend request to the deceased person’s profile, and then confirm it from his/her profile. This way, the content that has been uploaded to this profile, as defined by the deceased and seen by friends only, will now be visible to you.
- Download a copy of the deceased person’s profile: this will allow you to have a copy of all the uploaded pictures. Although these pictures will be in reduced size, this will allow you to access all the pictures and at once. In order to do this, from the deceased person’s personal profile, go to ‘General Settings’, then click on ‘Download a Copy’. In order to complete this action, you may be asked for his/her login password. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you have the password (or set a new password) prior to doing this. When Facebook prepares the profile copy, it will be sent as a link to the email address linked to the profile – that of the deceased person. Therefore, you will also need to have access to his/her email account in order to complete this process. Please note that this link is only active for few days after the date it was sent.
- If the deceased was managing Facebook pages or groups, you will need to add at least one other person as an administrator. Once a profile is memorialized, any pages managed by that profile are deleted immediately if the user was the sole administrator of that page. To add an administrator, you will need to log into the profile, go to the relevant page and/or group, and then follow these instructions for pages (http://on.fb.me/137rY24) and these instructions for groups (http://on.fb.me/1GJcr5V). Again, this is an action that can only be performed while you have access to the account of the deceased.
There is a difference between approaching Facebook with a request for posthumous access or a profile password (to the best of my knowledge there is no point in making such a request as it will not be granted), and approaching Facebook with a request to receive a copy of the contents of the account. Although I have yet to hear of someone to whom a request for profile contents was granted, it does seem that there is a point to be made in making such a request. The procedure requesting a copy of profile from Facebook (again, for a copy of the content only, not for the password nor access to the actual account) can be found here (http://on.fb.me/1zhGa5x).
The only privilege reserved for first-degree family members is the option to request that Facebook close a profile down after a death. If this is what you choose to do (again, every option is valid and legitimate, as long as its consequences are being considered), you can approach Facebook according to the instructions here (http://on.fb.me/1uXRfog).
Screenshot from Facebook: The second email, informing you that the copy is ready for download. The link is available for only few days from the date the email was sent.
Important to know: Facebook policy is to not allow access to a profile after its owner has passed away, not even to first-degree family relatives, in order to maintain its members’ posthumous privacy.
(Scroll down for updates, July 2015)
Facebook is the largest online social network today, and as such, questions regarding its post-death policies and procedures often arise. Even people who do not themselves make use of Facebook often find themselves interested in it as a tool to commemorate, share memories, mourn and make contact with the deceased person’s friends.
For the family, it can be a convenient way to inform the deceased person’s friends about the funeral, memorial service etc. It can also be a convenient way to stay in touch with his/her friends, and to see photos, videos, text and events in which the deceased is mentioned.
As for the deceased person’s friends, it can be a convenient way for them to receive information regarding the memorial ceremonies etc., as well as a way of staying in touch with each other and with the deceased person’s family.
Nevertheless, we have to bear in mind that when we use Facebook we are guests on a commercial platform. Since we are making use of it free of charge, we are not the “landlords” and cannot claim any rights to content on the platform, not even when we upload or share such content. Therefore, we have no one to turn to with requests or complaints when something goes wrong.
There is a significant gap between the very personal experience of uploading meaningful content, such as photos, text and videos and personal correspondences, and the reality that none of this extremely personal content actually belongs to us. At any given moment, the profile, the page, or the group we put so much time into, may be deleted or closed without prior notice, and in some cases, without any explanation or chance of restoration or retrieval.
Facebook changes constantly. It is important for me not to mislead you in any way with the information I am presenting. Therefore, it is advisable, before any action is taken, to ensure that the guide you are consulting here is the latest and most updated version.
Moreover, I am not advising you to use or to not use Facebook, as there is no one right way of proceeding that suits everyone. I do recommend, however, that you understand how to use it and the implications of any decisions you make about it, prior to taking any decision or action.
The options you have on Facebook with regard to a deceased person’s profile are to create a memorialization page or a memorialization group. You can also create a new memorialization profile, but Facebook discourages you from doing this.
Important: I am not advising that you open a page/group because there is simply no one right answer that suits all. It is recommended though, that you understand the pros and cons of each option, and I am sharing this information with you in order to help you make these decisions.
Anyone can “Like” it and join the list of people that follow the content uploaded to this page.
There is no option to approve or control who “likes” the page.
Everyone can upload content to the page, but it will be shown at the side of the page, in a reduced size.
Only content uploaded by you will be shown in the most prominent way, at the center of the page.
You can see the uploaded content by date.
You can ‘pin’ one published status at a time at the top of the page so it will be seen first.
The page is a suitable platform for unidirectional communication, i.e. from you to those who have “liked” the page.
You have no control over the privacy settings: memorialization pages are public.
Advantage: the content uploaded by you gets priority and prominence.
Disadvantage: the relatively minor visual appearance of others’ content on the page means that they may be discouraged from sharing their content on the page. Also, content uploaded by others becomes unavailable after a period of time.
Examples of memorialization pages:
In Loving Memory of James Sutton – J.T (HTTP://ON.FB.ME/1CJVC2E)
R.I.P Juliano Mer-Khamis (http://on.fb.me/1E9JT8Z)
Beloved Son and Brother (http://on.fb.me/1zSxfVp)
Rest In Peace Amy Rainbow (http://on.fb.me/1K8wUYU)
Anyone can join the group and you can add anyone to it. However, the group can also be defined in such a way that only those who are approved or added by you can become group members. In this way, it is possible for you to control the group’s membership.
Every member of the group can upload and share content. The uploaded content is displayed equally, whether uploaded by you or other group members.
Only you have the ability to ‘pin’ one published status at a time at the top of the group so it will be seen first.
There is no option to either stamp dates on the uploaded date or view it as a timeline.
The content that was most recently commented on will be displayed at the top of the page.
A group is more suitable for shared and multiple-direction communication, i.e. from anyone to everyone.
With regard to its privacy, a group can be set as open, closed, or private.
In an open group, everyone can see its content, including people who are not members.
In a closed or private group, only members of the group can see the content.
Advantage: encourages other people to share text, photos and videos, creating a sense of community around the memory of the deceased.
Disadvantage: you have less control over the visibility of the group and you cannot search and sort content by date.
An explanation by Facebook about the differences between a page and a group, and how to choose between them according to your particular needs and wishes, can be found here (http://on.fb.me/1t76U4y).
New memorialization profile:
It is technically possible to create a memorialization profile after a death for a person who did not have a Facebook account when they were alive. Since Facebook does not encourage using this option, I do not recommend it. If you still wish to consider it:
This is just like opening a new profile for yourself, but done for the deceased person after their death.
You can send friendship requests and accept requests received from others.
It is easy to control the list of friends.
You can choose the privacy settings so that you can control whether or not friends can write posts, as per your preference.
The content uploaded by you and by others will have the same visibility and prominence.
You can define the privacy settings with regard to who can see the profile in general and who can/cannot see specific posts.
You can set a date for each uploaded text, photo or video.
Content is presented in the chronological order in which it was uploaded in the “Timeline”.
Advantage: Gives a greater feeling of interpersonal communication, since the interaction is very much like the profile of a living person.
Disadvantage: People sometimes hesitate to confirm friend requests from people they do not really know, because it allows mutual visibility of profiles, as opposed to the one-sided visibility involved in “liking” a page.
As well as these friends seeing your posts, you will be also able to see the posts of these friends on the memorialization profile, as well as their uploaded content. Not everyone will want this format.
In addition, some Facebook users define uploaded content as visible to friends of friends. Therefore, by accepting the friend request from the memorialization profile, their content, including that of the memorialization profile, will be visible to other people. Again, not everyone will want to allow this.
A significant disadvantage: Facebook encourages you to open a page or a group in order to commemorate the deceased person. It discourages you from opening a profile for someone who is already deceased. You can read more about this policy here (http://on.fb.me/1pWlAEG). Therefore, this posthumously-created memorialization profile may be deleted.
Navigating Facebook in the wake of a death is very complicated and I do not claim to explain it comprehensively in this guide.
Instead, I wish to give you a guide to its most critical elements in the hope that it will assist you when making your own decisions. If you are in doubt about your ability to use Facebook, I do recommend that you have someone who is more familiar with the platform work through it with you in order to avoid making mistakes that may be irreversible.
Some highly important points:
It is important to make the distinction between creating a new memorialization profile, which is an action done by you, and turning an existing profile into a memorialization profile, which is an action done by Facebook. The social network changes the profile to a memorialization profile after receiving a report that the user is no longer alive.
When creating a page, you must define what it is being opened for. Defining the page as “Community” does not make it a group. It is highly important that you understand which type you are choosing and its implications, since after a certain point it will not be possible to undo these choices, e.g. it is not possible to change a page into a group, or a profile into a group after they have been opened.
You can turn a profile into a page. However, here also you need to understand the potential consequences of this prior to making this decision. You can read Facebook’s explanation here (http://on.fb.me/1oWekaD).
There are people who upload inappropriate and even offensive content to memorialization pages/groups. There is no way to prevent this from happening. If you encounter such content, you can delete it, report it to Facebook or block the posting person in order to stop it from recurring. You can read more about how to report inappropriate content here (http://on.fb.me/1qd20yI).
As for choosing between the different privacy definitions of a group, if it is important to you that uploaded content be visible to all, you will need to define the group as open. If you are concerned about inappropriate or offensive posts, or if the group was designated to be for friends and family only, it may be more suitable to choose a closed or private group. A general description of Facebook groups may be found here (http://on.fb.me/1sJIq3o). A more detailed explanation can be found here (http://on.fb.me/1nWUsin).
Anyone can open a memorialization page or a group in memory of someone that has passed away, and the family is not required to approve it. Therefore, when setting up your memorialization page/group you may want to emphasize within the text describing the purpose of the page/group that you are a first-degree family member, as well as that the page/group was created by the family and is based on its wishes.
It is worth considering that, in time, additional pages or groups in memory of your loved one may be created. If this bothers you, you can contact the page/group and ask for it to be closed.
If you encounter a problem, you can contact Facebook and request that the page/group will be closed. Facebook’s explanation regarding the reporting of pages and groups can be found here (http://on.fb.me/1qd20yI).
Another option worthy of consideration is to approach Facebook with a request (http://on.fb.me/Vsz8ds) to watch the “Look back” video of the deceased person. This is a short clip (one minute long), that Facebook creates, showing moments from the user’s last years on Facebook. An example can be seen here (http://bit.ly/1lNFaSX). You cannot decide what content will be in this video, as Facebook generates it independently.
Important: Requests for “Look Back” videos trigger a process in which Facebook turn the profile in question into a memorialization profile, since a request to see such a video constitutes a notification to Facebook that the person has passed away.
My recommendation is to make such a request only if the profile has already been turned into a memorialization profile, or if you have made the decision to have this happen.
You cannot get access to a “Look back” video without turning the profile into a memorialization profile. Therefore it is advisable to understand the consequences of this action, as explained in Chapter III > Online: Is it possible to access online accounts? > Facebook.
(Taken from Death In The Digital Era: A Useful Guide by Vered Shavit, ‘Digital Dust’ www.digitaldustblog.com. March 2nd 2015)
UPDATES FROM FACEBOOK
(July 2015, UK)
Memorialized accounts are a place for friends and family to gather and share memories after a person has passed away. Memorialized accounts have the following key features:
- The word Remembering will be shown next to the person’s name on their profile
- Depending on the privacy settings of the account, friends can share memories on the memorialized Timeline
- Content the person shared (ex: photos, posts) stays on Facebook and is visible to the audience it was shared with
- Memorialized profiles don’t appear in public spaces such as in suggestions for People You May Know, ads or birthday reminders
- No one can log into a memorialized account
- Memorialized accounts that don’t have alegacy contact can’t be changed
- Groups with an admin whose account was memorialized will be able to select new admins
- Pages with a sole admin whose account was memorialized will be removed from Facebook if we receive a valid request
What is a legacy contact?
A legacy contact is someone you choose to look after your account if it’s memorialized. Once your account is memorialized, your legacy contact will have the option to do things like:
- Write a pinned post for your profile (ex: to share a final message on your behalf or provide information about a memorial service)
- Respond to new friend requests (ex: old friends or family members who weren’t yet on Facebook)
- Update your profile picture and cover photo
You also have the option to allow your legacy contact to download a copy of what you’ve shared on Facebook, and we may add additional capabilities for legacy contacts in the future.
Your legacy contact can’t:
- Log into your account
- Remove or change past posts, photos and other things shared on your Timeline
- Read messages you’ve sent to other friends
- Remove any of your friends
If you’re a legacy contact, learn how to manage a memorialized profile.