Facebook Status: Deceased

By Mike Schuster  FEB 23, 2009 12:00 PM

Social network refuses to remove page despite user's untimely demise.


Not even a week has past since Facebook ate a whole smorgasbord of crow following a controversial rewording of its terms of service, and already the company has taken another hit in its PR glass jaw.

In mid-November 2008, Stephanie Bemister's brother, William Bemister, passed away. William was an Emmy-winning investigative journalist and used his Facebook profile to communicate with his sister and 2 nieces from his home in Oxford, England - thousands of miles away from Stephanie and her children. The profile contained some of William's personal information -- his phone number, company website and email address -- which Stephanie wished to have removed for reasons of privacy and security.

Stephanie contacted Facebook's privacy division with a copy of William's death certificate and instructions to remove William's profile. She was astounded to have Facebook reply with this message:

"Per our policy for deceased users, we have memorialized this person's account. This removes certain more sensitive information and sets privacy so that only confirmed friends can see the profile or find the person in search. The Wall remains so that friends and family can leave posts in remembrance."

Needless to say, not only is this unscrupulous, it's illegal.

Sickened and horrified by the social network's actions, Stephanie contacted Consumerist to ask for help. Soon after the story was posted, Facebook contacted Stephanie, apologized for the misunderstanding, and removed William's account.

In keeping with the company's reputation for unapologetic bluntness, spokesperson Barry Schnitt claimed that in her request Stephanie failed to inform Facebook that she was William's next of kin and merely identified herself as a relative. It was for that reason that the company initially refused to take down the profile. Of course, this was the first time the website bothered to mention those factors.

Stay classy, Facebook.
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