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Social Networks Technology

Can Twitter and Facebook Deal With Their Dead? 284

Barence writes "One and a half million Facebook users die each year. Twitter faces a similar mortality rate. Yet the social networks have been relatively slow to deal with the uncomfortable business of death. Only this week has Twitter finally unveiled a policy for handling the accounts of dead members. Yet the process for closing the accounts of deceased relatives is complicated, while reminders to follow the accounts of people who have long since passed away continue to arrive, adding to the pain of grieving friends and relatives."
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Can Twitter and Facebook Deal With Their Dead?

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  • So serious (Score:5, Funny)

    by odies ( 1869886 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @10:40AM (#33228014)

    You know what, before I die I will create a program that posts random predefined messages to my Facebook account after I have died. One of the morning messages could be "having a morning coffee with satan" and late night message could be "man do I appreciate cold beer right now".

    You only die once. The least you can do is have some fun creeping out people about it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Awww, why did you have to go and plant that idea in my head? Now I've got a serious jones to reactivate my FB account just so I can do this 30-40 years from now!
      • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @02:47PM (#33230882) Journal
        What? So that you can do this?

        Captain Splendid: Oops... Looks like I'm dead. Damn... :(
        Tuesday at 10:00pm

        Captain Splendid likes 10 ways to tell that you are really dead
        Tuesday at 10:02pm

        Captain Splendid: Anyone have a res handy? Urgent!
                    Captain Splendid needs a resurrection! Give him one and you'll get HadesVille points!
        Tuesday at 10:13pm via HadesVille

        Captain Splendid: Where's the restore from quick-save option when you really really need it. Sigh...
        Tuesday at 10:17pm

        Captain Splendid: On the bright side, I guess I don't have to show up for work tomorrow :) @Boss.
        Tuesday at 10:20pm

        Captain Splendid: Hmm, wonder what time the funeral will be tomorrow. I'd hate to be late ;). Haha I kill me sometimes (but not this time, it was Professor Plum with the candlestick!).
        Tuesday at 10:32pm

        Captain Splendid: I guess I'll call it a night, no point doing the graveyard shift, don't want to be like a zombie tomorrow...
        Tuesday at 10:50pm

        Captain Splendid: Good morning! I'm up! OK not so good and not so up. Oh well. At least the mortician made me smile, put stitches in my side too.
        Wednesday at 7:30am

        Captain Splendid likes What's worse than waking up early in the morning? Not waking up at all!
        Wednesday at 7:32am

        Captain Splendid: I guess I'll skip breakfast, no stomach for it today... But I'd die for a cup of coffee :p.
        Wednesday at 7:35am

        Captain Splendid: Wow, people are actually coming to my funeral!
        Wednesday at 8:43am

        Captain Splendid likes a minute of silence
        Wednesday at 9:01am

        Captain Splendid: Aww don't cry... OK so I'll really be forever in your debt, but hey I did say the payback's gonna be "out of this world" right? XD
        Wednesday at 9:05am

        Captain Splendid likes The Sweet By and By
        Wednesday at 9:10am

        Captain Splendid: @MaryNotMarried now's the time to ask that pesky aunt "When's your turn" just like she does to you at weddings... Haha!
        Wednesday at 9:13am

        Captain Splendid likes short sermons and even shorter skirts
        Wednesday at 9:20am

        Captain Splendid: ok Human Torch time!
        Wednesday at 9:30am

        Captain Splendid: getting kinda warm in here... I hate stupid ties and suits.
        Wednesday at 9:35am

        Captain Splendid: SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSMOKIN'!
        Wednesday at 9:37am

        Captain Splendid: Flame on!
        Wednesday at 9:40am

        Captain Splendid: The ultimate fat burning program... Watch the pounds melt away. And never come back- 100% guaranteed!
        Wednesday at 9:45am

        Captain Splendid: ok I guess I can fit in that sexy "size nothing" urn now... Check out my new curves... Hey guys, I'm coming out of the closet! Just kidding! Don't look like you've just seen a ghost.
        Wednesday at 9:55am

        Captain Splendid: It is very dark. I wonder if grues eat ashes.
        Wednesday at 10:00am
    • by Krneki ( 1192201 )
      Death seldom tells you when it comes.

      But I do like your idea.

      Buy a shell account and let the program run.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cormander ( 1273812 )
        Just use a dead-man's switch. The program checks to see when you last updated your FB account, and if it's been more than a few weeks, it starts its random posts.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tgd ( 2822 )

        These days, most deaths are not surprises. Maybe not in Facebook's demographics, but most deaths are not.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by laron ( 102608 )

          I think that depends on your definition of surprise.
          "I expected this, but not so soon" could be written on many tombstones.

        • Re:So serious (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Thursday August 12, 2010 @12:13PM (#33229190) Homepage Journal

          Nope, you're wrong. About the only unsurprising deaths are cancers and aids. As many people die of heart attacks as cancer, and death from heart disease is usually swift and unexpected. In fact, in my nearly six decades of having people die on me, only three were not surprises, and all of them were cancers. The rest were auto accidents, one friend was murdered by someone trying to rob him, and the rest were heart attacks or old age.

          If you'd said "100 years ago most deaths were not surprises" I'd have agreed; most people back then died of things like tuberculosis, influenza, etc.

    • by Mr. Bad Example ( 31092 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @10:53AM (#33228190) Homepage

      > One of the morning messages could be "having a morning coffee with satan" and late night message could be "man do I appreciate cold beer right now".

      I've had sort of the same idea, only mine is an IM bot that will occasionally fire off messages to my friends at 3 AM saying things like "Look behind you" or "HE COMES".

    • I post messages like that anyway, and I'm still alive! People will probably shit their pants when they see what I post after I die.
    • You know what, before I die I will create a program that posts random predefined messages to my Facebook account after I have died.

      This makes me want to create a task which prompts once a week/2weeks wherever the user is still alive.

      Once you stop confirming, your account gets taking over by the random predefined mode.

      Image the stress after coming back after a 3-week holiday...

    • You know, the ancient Egyptians believed that basically the Ka (soul) can move back and forth between the underworld and real world, as long as a suitable support for the Ka is provided and if possible a spirit door. (Read the shape of a door carved on the wall.) You could literally write a letter to grandma and leave it in her tomb, for her to read when she drops by. In fact, it even makes more sense than just talking and expecting grandma to hear from wherever she may be.

      Me, I plan to take it to the logic

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheCarp ( 96830 )

      This brings up an important point for me.... what about the individuals say in their own "digital legacy". What if my family doesn't agree with the things I say (often the case)... will they be able to posthumously censor me? Sure I am dead, and my feelings on the matter will be void... but even though something is "my account" and "I am dead" ... it was public or semi-public. It was between me and a section of the world.... my next of kin may be given control over the account but, my words belong to me and

    • I like this idea, and it sounds like something I would do, but I would suggest a dead man switch... 6 months of no one logging in and the account gets deleted.

      I can see obvious problems with that, as it would likely drastically reduce the facebook user numbers(I haven't logged into the facebook account I deleted(except since its facebook, its not actually deleted) for over a year) but I think something of the sort would be the only way to really deal with it, that or have the ability to approve other users

  • by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Thursday August 12, 2010 @10:41AM (#33228038) Homepage Journal

    But in order to achieve this, the grieving relatives must send Twitter their full name and contact details, an explanation of their relationship to the deceased, the user name of the Twitter account and links to a public obituary that provides proof of death.

    That's ridiculous; Netcraft confirmation should suffice.

  • Snore (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Captain Splendid ( 673276 ) * <capsplendid@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday August 12, 2010 @10:43AM (#33228048) Homepage Journal
    Automated systems are insensitive. News at 11.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BStroms ( 1875462 )
      I kind of agree. In the face of a death, whether or not their social networking accounts stay active seems like a pretty trivial issue to me. When the trauma is still fresh, I can forgive a person who acts a little irrationally. However, once some time has passed, why would anyone even care anymore? Unless you're getting spam from someone who's logging into the dead person's account to help their own Farmville game or whatnot, you shouldn't even be getting anything that would remind you it's still active.
      • Well, now that fb has put in that little box in the corner that says 'it's been a while since you talked to Steve, you should send him a message,' there are a few reminders.

      • Re:Snore (Score:5, Funny)

        by jeffmeden ( 135043 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @11:34AM (#33228750) Homepage Journal

        Unless you're getting spam from someone who's logging into the dead person's account to help their own Farmville game or whatnot, you shouldn't even be getting anything that would remind you it's still active.

        NickJones08 is pushing up daisies in Farmville!
        Play Farmville now and help him out!

  • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @10:43AM (#33228058) Homepage

    It's not just a problem with social networks, of course; the question of what to do with a site when the owner dies is a question that has to be dealt with by all websites.

    • Don't worry Taco and Neal will be around for a long time. At least as long as they stay away from hockey games.

    • by qoncept ( 599709 )
      What's more common is the question of what happens to an owner when his site dies.
    • the question of what to do with a site when the owner dies is a question that has to be dealt with by all websites

      It really only has to be dealt with by the interactive 'free' sites like FB. If I die, evenutally my domain will die, my flickr pro account etc. will all die - All because my corpse will fail to pay my bills.

    • by Tukz ( 664339 )

      That's easy, eventually the subscription for the hosting will expire.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by canajin56 ( 660655 )
      And not just websites, other automated systems have this issue, too! Like that collections agency that didn't even phone, just filed lawsuits in their own jurisdiction and hoped for default judgments. Well, that's way too many lawsuits to pay for lawyer time for, so they just had a computer automatically generate lawsuits. You need a signed affidavit though. No problem, just have the computer insert a signature copied from a scanned document! So, like most collections agencies, and like the RIAA/MPAA m
  • by mlts ( 1038732 ) * on Thursday August 12, 2010 @10:45AM (#33228080)

    Maybe it would be nice for social networking services to have a "key escrow" feature, or some way where trusted people who know the person can validate the account as dead automatically and have it disabled, similar to having key revokers in PGP that can yank a public key if the private key gets lost.

    This feature would be up to the discretion of the individual, because this could be quite easily abused.

    • by gront ( 594175 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @10:51AM (#33228176)
      Just keep a list of passwords and such in your safe/safety deposit box, along with account numbers and all that other info. Sure, your folks are going to be able to look at your pr0n collection after yer dead, but at least they will have a list of your bank accounts and such. Otherwise that computer will just end up on ebay as is, right?
      • by mlts ( 1038732 ) *

        This is assuming people one trusts have access to such stuff. As soon as a person dies, safe deposit boxes get frozen, and it takes a probate judge to un-freeze those. Same with safes on people's property.

        Plus, people I might trust may not be close geographically.

        Ideally, it would be nice to have a secret key sharing system (Shamir's Secret Sharing is a popular algorithm), where the key is reconstituted, where X out of Y total people need to think the person is dead before the key can be regenerated and t

    • by Spectre ( 1685 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @11:01AM (#33228312)
      It wouldn't be too easily abused if it did one or more of the following:
      • Required at least two people who had been given "declare dead" rights to declare the death
      • Sent an e-mail to the account holder's registered e-mail address with a link to an "I'm not dead" page, no response in, say, 72 hours and the account goes "dead" (although it should still have the "dead" status be revocable after the 72 hours have expired)

      I don't really know why this would be a problem for Twitter, though. It isn't like the dead person is going to be texting Twitter, so there shouldn't be any updates being posted?

      • A million teenagers are rubbing their hands with glee and filling their friend's (or enemy's) mailboxes with "Are you dead yet?" messages as we speak.

        What we really need is for Facebook to automatically hide accounts if you don't access them for 90 days. After six months without access they should be permanently deleted.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by dangitman ( 862676 )

        Sent an e-mail to the account holder's registered e-mail address with a link to an "I'm not dead" page,

        Dear Facebook,

        I'm not dead, I was just pining for the fjords.


        Percival Q. Parrot, Esq.

      • by shbazjinkens ( 776313 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @12:25PM (#33229322)

        Confirmation of the death isn't a problem, there are all sorts of efficient ways to do that. There are other reasons that people aren't being reported as deceased.

        One of my very close friends died recently and the reason none of his Facebook friends have filed is because Facebook will delete all of his status updates. Maybe it is painful to see his name or face pop up every once in a while on my Facebook page, but it's much more painful to see all of our conversations on his wall get deleted because of Facebook policy.

    • How about simply requesting death certificates, obituaries, etc. along with a (say) 1-week confirmation period from the supposed deceased?

  • by drunkennewfiemidget ( 712572 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @10:47AM (#33228108) Homepage

    A very good friend of mine was murdered in October of 2008 (for those of you in Toronto/Ontario/Canada, Bailey Zaveda, the girl that was gunned down while outside of a bar having a cigarette) by someone she didn't know and had no involvement with.

    Anyway, her facebook account still exists, and I don't see the problem with that. Everyone knows what happened to her, and her profile served as part of the grieving process for many people. To this day, they post their latest happenings in their lives on her wall, say happy birthday to her, etc.

    I mean, if the interest here is to get the facebook.com/username or twitter userid back, then revoke those after say, 1 year of inactivity, but I don't see the harm in leaving the account there for people to reminisce, grieve, or whatever.

  • by ilsaloving ( 1534307 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @10:47AM (#33228110)

    The problem would be greatly simplified if people kept a private record of all the services they use (or at least, the major ones), with login and password details. Have the list secured away somewhere, to be given to next of kin at time of death. That way they can be managed properly by whoever has to deal with the estate.

    As people give more and more importance to their online presence, they need to think about how to take care of that presence in the same way they do the deed of their house, their car, etc.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Aydsman ( 718016 )

      The problem would be greatly simplified if people kept a private record of all the services they use (or at least, the major ones), with login and password details. Have the list secured away somewhere, to be given to next of kin at time of death. That way they can be managed properly by whoever has to deal with the estate.

      I've just realised I've started to do just this in one service: LastPass

      All I need to do is leave an envelope sealed with my Will which has my LastPass master password & details about how to log in to the website. Anyone with basic computer skills can deactivate accounts from that info. Plus it will always be kept up to date with the latest login details.

    • Someone should start a social networking site where people can store the credentials of all their other social networking sites for just this sort of purpose. Kind of a meta-social networking site.

      Security and privacy would be assured, of course.

  • by fishbowl ( 7759 )

    When someone dies, their junk mail stops. It's pretty creepy when you notice this.

    • When someone dies, their junk mail stops. It's pretty creepy when you notice this.

      Or if it doesn't stop, instead of being to "Valued Customer John Doe, save $$$ on Viagra" it's "To the grieving widow of John Doe, save $$$$ on Viagra"

  • by PocariSweat1991 ( 1651929 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @10:47AM (#33228116)
    "One and a half million Facebook users die each year."

    That's about 3 times as many annual deaths as tobacco users!
    Where's the Bureau of Alcohol, Twitter, and Facebook when you need them?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by sakdoctor ( 1087155 )

      Twitters die younger
      Facebook when pregnant harms your baby
      Your doctor or your pharmacist can help you stop posting
      Facebook is highly addictive, don't start
      Farmville may reduce blood flow and cause impotence
      Protect children: don't make them a zombie

    • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

      That's one more good reason to stop using Facebook if you ask me!

    • It's actually called the Bureau of AIM, Twitter, and Facebook.
    • by 6031769 ( 829845 )

      I think you are seriously underestimating the global mortality rate among tobacco users. It was about 3 million in 1990 and is likely to be even higher today.

  • Expiry? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mushdot ( 943219 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @10:49AM (#33228136) Homepage

    There ought to be an automatic expiry based on the activity of the account.

    E.g. after 2 months inactivity the account is put on hold (no reminders/messages sent to linked friends), then after say 18 months further inactivity the account is removed.

    There would still be a period of shit the relatives and friends would have to go to through with getting messages etc but at least the issue could naturally resolve itself?

    • but at least the issue could naturally resolve itself?

      As Nature Intended!

    • I think you could probably go with something like 4 months inactivity unless set on vacation mode warrants a deletion - and even vacation mode only lasts like 12 months.

      I think oGame and Battle.net had something similar for game accounts - except on a much shorter time scale.

  • by Haedrian ( 1676506 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @10:49AM (#33228148)

    Why is it so difficult to just wait X days, and then close the account? You know, like other sites-which-don't-want-to-make-money-off-your-personal-information do ?

    • Yeah, but how valuable is dead person info? Perhaps some sort of post-mortem ad system should be developed to capitalize on this underutilized market :P
      • Yeah, but how valuable is dead person info?

        Just as valuable as live person info, if you don't point out the difference to the company you're selling it to.

        If Twitter/Facebook remain intentionally ignorant of who's dead, or even just don't put in the effort to determine who is, that's awfully easy.

      • You obviously don't live in Chicago.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1960 [wikipedia.org]

        Since I don't know how to direct down the page... [from the wiki article]

        However, a special prosecutor assigned to the case brought charges against 650 people, which did not result in convictions.[1] Three Chicago election workers were convicted of voter fraud in 1962 and served short terms in jail.[1] Mazo, the Herald-Tribune reporter, later said that he found names of the dead who had voted i
    • A lot of people put a lot of emotional stock into Facebook. That sounds crazy, but let me explain.

      I'm going into my junior year of college. About a month and a half ago, a well-liked girl from my high school class and her entire family died in a car crash in California. My news feed was suddenly flooded with posts to her wall of people trying to find some sort of closure. Personally, I didn't know her too well, but we had a lot of mutual friends. Many of my friends still post on her wall, because it's

  • by dominion ( 3153 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @10:52AM (#33228178) Homepage

    I was at the Federated Social Web Summit this July, and over drinks, I was discussing this issue with other open source social networking developers. I mentioned that I've had a few friends pass who still have a presence on the social web (livejournal, facebook, myspace), and I really appreciate being able to go back and remember them that way. I also mentioned that their parents have access to their accounts, so people would get especially unnerved when that "online now" icon would show up or when they would pop up in a chat list, because their parents were checking or closing out their account.

    I had a little too much to think, so I posited the idea of a system which learns, based on what you've posted, how to post like you after you're gone. Not a full representation, but a way to continue to create an impression of you. Less like Sonny from I, Robot, and more like Mal from Inception. A shadow of a person, based on what people remember. Or, more specifically, what the system remembers. Since conceivably, generations born in 2000 and up will live their whole lives on the social web, systems will have a lot of information with which to recreate a person's personality. When I suggested this, someone asked, "Why would I have to wait until I died to use this?"

    I won't be coding this into Appleseed, because for now, it violates the "Don't Be Creepy" rule that sometimes people break when building prediction software. But there's no reason it can't be done, which means at some point, someone will do it.

    Michael Chisari
    Appleseed - http://opensource.appleseedproject.org/ [appleseedproject.org]

    • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

      This is exactly like Zoe Graystone from Caprica [wikipedia.org].

    • by sznupi ( 719324 )

      I suspect that is, more or less, the way we will achieve "immortality" (which would, granted, dissapoint some) - more and more information we leave behind, living its own life so to speak; the process accelerating with advancing augmentation of...us. And at some point a shift, hardly noticed by anybody, which will give raise to some actual continuity.

      Not of the same kind of course - why would it be? Most functions of our brains are of low-level/"primal" kind, vast majority of high-level ones routine; and be

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bieeanda ( 961632 )
      Oh, pleeeease? I want to be the first person to set up a Dixie Flatline gimmick account!
  • by Turzyx ( 1462339 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @10:54AM (#33228204)
    I didn't realise using Facebook and Twitter was such a risky endeavour.
  • Have a page with a fax number where next of kin can send off a death certificate as well as a fill in a page form specifying the exact account. Higher some minimum wage monkey to log the accounts. Bonus points if you can automate the process.
  • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @10:56AM (#33228240) Homepage

    It almost looks like they just took the number of active FB accounts, supposedly a bit over 500 million...and divided by 365? I don't think there's such level of recycling of population, nvm how FB users aren't in the age groups with mortality even close to average of the population.

    And if one day they will become representative - that, sort of, will at the same time resolve the issue. People "dissapear" all the time and societies manage to cope - if only because of how death is typically a process, poeple often tend to vanish from social life some time before actually dying. It will be similar with FB probably / their accounts will be typically long abandoned.

  • by GameMaster ( 148118 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @11:04AM (#33228364)

    Dead members can't cancel their accounts. They are very convenient for padding your membership numbers, which makes you look better to the market analysts/investors. The motivation for them to do the honest thing and remove the accounts is that now, finally, someone pointed it out publicly so the charade is blown and the dishonestly is bad PR.

  • You bastards leave my data ghosts in peace.

  • by losing balance ( 454187 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @11:06AM (#33228400)

    My daughter died 2 months ago in a car accident. Many of her family and friends still post messages to her Facebook page telling her how much we miss her. I'm not sure if it's helping or hindering the grieving process, but at least for me, it's been nice to hear from all the people who loved her. Some share memories while others just say they were thinking about her. There have been links to YouTube videos of sad songs, sappy (but sweet) poetry, and slideshows of her. At least for now, I can't even bring myself to delete her from my contacts in my phone, let alone delete her Facebook profile.

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @11:09AM (#33228440)
    I crave immortality.
  • Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.... also my facebook password is tellaphilltogoforward.

  • If people would just stop dying, we wouldn't have this problem.

    Oh wait, Twitter users? Carry on.

  • Orly? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xacid ( 560407 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @11:23AM (#33228616) Journal

    "while reminders to follow the accounts of people who have long since passed away continue to arrive, adding to the pain of grieving friends and relatives"

    I had a coworker who died roughly a year ago - and older guy who took me under his wing and taught me quite a bit. After he passed away his wife took over his account and posted pictures of him and both of them together when they were young. I thought it was an amazing celebration of his life and was a neat way for her to interact with people whose lives he had touched as well. For someone to say an account adds to the pain - I'd say that's highly subjective. People all handle death differently - let the individuals decide what's painful and what's not.

  • The real question here is what's the broadband situation like inside the Pearly Gates?
  • An obituary does not provide proof of death. A death certificate provides proof of death. If they have to have some sort of a link it should be to the relevant entry in the records of the jurisdiction where the death occurred (Yes, your death is a matter of public record. More of your precious privacy gone.)

  • One way they could address about half of the issue would be to allow users to assign a secondary administrator (basically a "power of attorney") that had has the right to delete (not modify) the account after the account goes inactive for so many days. It's morbid, but so are living wills and we deal with those on a daily basis.

    Of course, this would do nothing for the younger crowd who tend to die unexpectedly and aren't thinking ahead like this, but it would definitely put a dent in issue with ghost accou

  • I'm not dead.

    Well, he will be soon, he's very ill.

  • Web Crawler: Bring out yer dead.
    [a Robots.txt responds to the request with a packet]
    Robots.txt: Here's one.
    Web Crawler: That'll be nine bytes.
    Dead Person's Webpage: I'm not dead.
    Web Crawler: What?
    Robots.txt: Nothing. There's your nine bytes.
    Dead Person's Webpage: I'm not dead.
    Web Crawler: 'Ere, he says he's not dead.
    Robots.txt: Yes he is.
    Dead Person's Webpage: I'm not.
    Web Crawler: He isn't.
    Robots.txt: Well, he will be soon, he's got bitrot.
    Dead Person's Webpage: I'm getting better. Look, new content from friends and family.
    Robots.txt: No you're not, you'll be stale content in a moment. No more page requests.
    Web Crawler: Well, I can't take him like that. It's against regulations. Robots.txt, you should take him off your Disallow list.
    Dead Person's Webpage: I don't want to go to the 404.
    Robots.txt: Oh, don't be such a baby.
    Web Crawler: I can't take him.
    Dead Person's Webpage: I feel fine.
    Robots.txt: Oh, do me a favor.
    Web Crawler: I can't.
    Robots.txt: Well, can you 302 temporarily redirect him for a couple of days? He won't be long.
    Web Crawler: I promised I'd be at the Facebooks'. They've lost nine today.
    Robots.txt: Well, when's your next round?
    Web Crawler: 20100821 04:32:55 UTC.
    Dead Person's Webpage: I think I'll go for a retweet.
    Robots.txt: You're not fooling anyone, you know. Isn't there anything you could do?
    Dead Person's Webpage: Status Update: I feel happy. Status Update: I feel happy.
    [Web Crawler spiders up and down the fibre optic pipe furtively, then silences the Webpage with a whack of his delisting]
    Robots.txt: Ah, thank you very much.
    Web Crawler: Not at all. See you on 20100821 04:32:55 UTC.
    Robots.txt: Right.

  • by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Thursday August 12, 2010 @11:33AM (#33228736) Homepage Journal
    But I get social networking website email invites all the time. I never read them (partially because they are a popular virus vector now) and rarely even catch the name in the subject line. I really can't imagine being offended by an invite from a dead person; it's just an automated email from an automated system.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 12, 2010 @11:50AM (#33228934)

    As a funeral director I can make a few observations.

    Deleting the accounts is a bad idea. Many of these accounts serve as online memorials to people's loved ones. Even if the person is no longer around to post or update their profiles, loved ones may take comfort in the fact that the deceased is still in their social network. Many of the people using social networks are still young people and most of their deaths are unexpected (accidents, suicides, homicides) and many of the survivors are still dealing with the reality of the situation. I think many of these companies need to be sensitive to the needs of the grieving and in an age where user loyalty is everything they should hold onto these accounts in the interests of of being sensitive to the grieving who make up part of their still alive user base.

    If you ever want access to the content of somebody who died then you need to have the executor of the estate forward a page from the will outlining who the executor of the will is and a copy of the funeral director's proof of death. If you try and wait for official copies of the government's proof of death you could be looking at a 2 year wait. Also forward the name of the funeral home who handled the arrangements in case they have any questions. If you are not the executor or the person who made the arrangements then you need to get in touch with them and get their permission. It doesn't matter if you were the deceased's favorite brother the law in most places favors the executor.

    Now all this being said, I need to caution loved ones that in the case of an unexpected death (like a suicide), trying to obtain access to people's social network data may be part of looking for answers as to why it happened. As somebody who has read a fair share of suicide notes and heard a lot of stories about circumstances surrounding sudden deaths I can tell you that sometimes are better off not knowing. You may learn secrets about your loved one you really did not want to know and it may cause damage to your opinion of them. A lot of private communications contains information we would not want to share with our loved ones and sometimes its best if loved ones don't know it (even after a death). So before you go charging into trying to go through all this information ask yourself if you are really prepared for what you might find. Did you really want to know that your loving married father was being unfaithful or your baby sister you adored had a serious debt and meth problem?


"The Avis WIZARD decides if you get to drive a car. Your head won't touch the pillow of a Sheraton unless their computer says it's okay." -- Arthur Miller