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Facebook enshrines dead people profiles

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Facebook has announced a new service for the friends and family of dead people.

Monday morning, after some public pressure from Canada's privacy czar, Mark Zuckerberg and company told the world they're now "memorializing" the Facebook profiles of those who graduate to that big social network in the sky.

"When someone leaves us, they don't leave our memories or our social network," Facebook man Max Kelly wrote on the official Facebook blog. "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."

When an account is memorialized, only friends confirmed by the dead person prior to death can see the account or even locate it via search. And though friends can post stuff to the dead person's virtual "Wall," no one can actually log in to the account. Facebook also says it will "try to protect the deceased's privacy by removing sensitive information such as contact information and status updates" - and work to remove the profile from certain on-site feeds.

"We understand how difficult it can be for people to be reminded of those who are no longer with them," the post continues. "For instance, just last week, we introduced new types of Suggestions that appear on the right-hand side of the home page and remind people to take actions with friends who need help on Facebook. By memorializing the account of someone who has passed away, people will no longer see that person appear in their Suggestions."

To memorialize the profile of a dead person you know, you can contact Facebook via this form, entitled "Deceased." You must provide the deceased's date-of-birth, email addresses they may have used to create their Facebook account, your relationship to the deceased, and proof of death, including a news article or obituary.

The Canadian privacy czar must be very pleased indeed. But here at The Reg, we're patiently waiting for Mark Zuckerberg and company to memorialize the Facebook profile of someone who's very much among the living. If web pranksters can fool a Reuters reporter into thinking the Chamber supports greenhouse gas legislation, someone can surely fool Facebook into thinking some unsuspecting social networker has passed into the hereafter.

We also know that Facebook friends aren't always friends. Protecting a dead person's privacy is all well and good, but what happens when someone takes a piss on that Wall? What happens if there's a dispute over what is and what isn't sensitive profile material?

Death was so much easier on GeoCities. ®

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