Q: I heard that Facebook has a way to preserve an account for someone that has passed away? Is this true and if so, how does it work?
A: One of the unintended benefits of having a Facebook page is that when one passes on, a very detailed and wonderful memorial to that person will remain.
Not only are there all the memories from the person that has passed, but all of the thoughts and comments from the friends of the deceased also remain for others to share.
Facebook created a process that allows family members to notify them that the user has passed away and to convert the profile into a “memorial” page.
According to Facebook: “Memorializing the account removes certain sensitive information and sets privacy so that only confirmed friends can see the profile or locate it in search. The Wall remains so that friends and family can leave posts in remembrance.”
Another result in memorializing the profile is that the annual “birthday reminder” for that user that would normally appear on friends pages is removed from the network (which may or may not be desired).
To notify Facebook of a deceased person’s profile, you can fill out the form located at http://bit.ly/bNDLca but you will need some information that may require you to do some homework first.
Obviously, Facebook has to balance the need for loved ones to report a passing with pranksters that think it would be funny to report a living person as deceased.
If you find yourself in this situation, you will be asked to provide the full name used on the profile, date of birth, the e-mail address used to set up the account (you may have to take an educated guess), Facebook networks that the deceased may have belonged to, the actual Facebook URL (web address) for the deceased’s profile, your relationship and any online proof of the passing (such as an obituary or news story).
The less of this information you have, the less likely you will get Facebook to memorialize the account.
When a profile is memorialized, certain things are removed by Facebook at their discretion and the profile is locked down from any future “friends” to connect. While this policy is intended to respect the privacy of the deceased, it sets up a problem for those that did not connect prior to the profile being converted.
Many family members are taken by surprise because of some of the automatic changes that occur to the profile once it is memorialized and would not have done it if they had known what was going to happen.
Something that everyone who is active on Facebook should consider is documenting the necessary items above along with the profile login information and storing it in a safety deposit box or somewhere else secure that would only be accessed in the event of an untimely passing.
This would allow family members to take over the account and manage the profile status, connections, etc. to their own needs instead of allowing Facebook’s policies to determine what happens.
Facebook isn’t the only social network that can become a memorial to a loved one, so some interesting new services have appeared on the landscape.
One in particular, Backupify (http://backupify.com), is an online backup service for social media and other internet-based personal data that was supposedly created as a result of the death of someone close to one of the founders.
Again, if you use this to preserve your social postings, you should keep a copy of the login information with the rest of your “in the event of my death” file or safety deposit box so your family can control your digital legacy.
Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the “Computer Corner” radio show, which can be heard at noon Saturdays on KTAR (92.3 FM) or at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org