Facebook, Google+ and the like each have different rules about what should happen to digital assets after an account holder passes on. Specifically, Facebook’s mishandling digital content of deceased user’s has been very public, and reported on every few years. Each time Facebook claims to have a process to convert the deceased’s pages to memorial page, the process is less than transparent, nor easy. The last time a friend passed away, we learned that Facebook required proof of death to be sent to them by an immediate family member. There is no online mechanisms to facilitate this, nor can the process be monitored once sent.
Facebook claims this is to prevent people from closing account holder’s profile pages, which is a valid concern. However, it could be a much easier, and transparent process that still protects users from hoaxes or “attacks.” From what I have seen, the actual reason it remains problematic to convert or close accounts of the dead is because Facebook has a conflict of interest.
It is in Facebook’s best interest to retain user profiles and access to post to people’s feeds via friends (deceased or not) since it is well known that referrals from friends have a higher conversion rate to sales/use. Also, data-mining is more accurate when it has more user data to draw upon. As new/refined analysis algorithms can reveal user preferences through relationships, is it best to keep user data in the pool.
The process is even more of a mire in cases where the there is no available immediate family or the family does to want to release the death certificate. (Facebook gets revenue from collecting user data, and the only way to convert an account to a memorial or closing it is by disclosing a survivor’s personal information to them.) What has happened in these cases where there is an impasse, is that the deceased user’s page remain active. Again, Facebook wants to have user pages stay active, since each account counts towards its numbers it can quote to advertisers. Obviously the larger account base, the more revenue can be demanded for placing advertisements.
Facebook is also free to use the deceased’s page as an advertising medium push content to deceased person’s friend’s feeds— often in the form stating the deceased person “likes” brand x or brand y. Since the ToS requires opting in to “content enhancement features” and Facebook has argued that advertising is content, Facebook is legally free to use users to push products. Also, even if a user opts out of this sort of push advertising used on their friends — preference changes often erase user settings to opt-out. Facebook has promised on numerous occasions to not lose these privacy and preference settings, but this reversion to the default “open”/“frictionless” behavior has happened on numerous occasions.
Facebook has then claimed these resetting preferences which amount to privacy breaches are “errors” and simply instructs users to change their setting back to what they were. Facebook is not liable for errors anyway since no software is perfect. However, it is suspicious that these errors tend to work in their favor. With no one retaining access, no one reapply preferences such as privacy settings that stop this behavior nor refute advertising claims of the person “liking” a brand. Also, given the automatic birthday reminder, the deceased often show up in friend’s feeds which can be received as in bad taste — especially if this is shortly after death.
This has led to court cases Facebook had used its ToS to roadblock friends of the deceased correcting the problem of listing a deceased person as active. A deceased person is incapable of “liking” (present tense) anything.
Despite their claims of sensitivity and promises to correct this callous treatment of friends of the deceased, Facebook continues to profit from the dead. In the past 5 years, I have witnessed at least 3 deceased “friends” be used in such a manner to promote brands such as Tide, Wal*Mart & other large companies. Even though Facebook was informed that the person had died, they claim they cannot memorialize the page without proof of death (noted above). However in 2 cases, both were known to not actually “like” the brand. One of which “liked” a product that she was known to be allergic to (Scented Tide when it was known she was allergic to all scented detergents) & another where the person actually said she thought Wal*Mart was a crappy store (product quality & employee treatment) before passing away, only to show up in advertisement “liking” Wal*Mart within months of passing away.
The last example was the last straw for me, and was the final assault that pushed me over the edge to close my account. Since then, I have closed accounts at other web sites that breach my trust (or become irrelevant time wasters), and have 1 major SoNet left, and even that is hanging by a thread with each rude advertisement in my feed making me reconsider my participation.