Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day of the Dead and Facebook

WARNING: potentially inadvertent insensitive commentary about the dead

A little off topic, but I have been thinking about this for awhile. Two of my friends, who were also friends on Facebook, passed on within the last 6 months. I see their profiles pop up on my page now and again and sometimes Facebook even reminds me about them through various prompts. I have been wondering, lately, what should happen to their pages?

For one of my friends, after she passed on, people posted kind words and memories of her on her page. It really was a lovely and an immediate way to participate with the community of people who lost her, acknowledging that loss. But it has bothered me, as the months have gone on, to see her picture pop up and have Facebook ask me to suggest friends for her.

This morning, I saw a BBC article on this exact thing. Facebook has decided to address the matter by allowing the pages to remain as a memorial to the former Facebook member. Only friends will be able to visit and see the memorialised page. Nowhere in the article did Facebook announce that family members could ask that the page be removed. Indeed, the head of security of Facebook, Mr. Max Kelly, went as far as to say, "When someone leaves us, they don't leave our memories or our social network." http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8327607.stm

Uh, yeah, the dead actually do leave our social network. There may be some people in society whose social network include the deceased but I believe that is a minority of the population and they probably do not have Facebook pages. WTF??

I think Facebook is amazing. It allows people to re-connect, stay in touch with friends who live far away, and socialise in this new way that is playful and instant. Having said that, in any social gathering there are downsides-stories of people bullied, complaining about work and then getting sacked. Beyond that, there is something else that is happening. The keeping dead people in our social network provides a glimpse of Facebook's greedy but successful underbelly.

Last week, a US District Court judge in San Jose, California approved a settlement for Lane. et al v. Facebook, Inc., N.D. Cal., Case No. 5:08-cv-03845-RS, a class-action filed by Facebook users. The suit concerned Facebook's Beacon system that tracked member's online buying activities-activities that occurred while members were NOT on Facebook. The tracking took place without member's knowledge. Those purchases were then detailed on the member's page through a news feed along with a related advert for a similar item. For example, the main plaintiff of the class action bought a ring online as a gift for his wife. That purchase was posted on his Facebook page and his wife saw it. The claims were for violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Video Privacy Protection Act and the California Computer Crime Law.

The $9.5 million settlement pays plaintiffs, anywhere from ($1000-$15,000), but most of the monies go for plaintiff attorney fees ($3 million) and the funding of an Online Privacy Foundation ($6 million). The Foundation will promote online privacy and security. Promoting online privacy and security is something Facebook is already required to do under Federal Trade Commission mandates and California law. See www.digitalmedialawyerblog.com/2009/09

The settlement negotiated by lawyers resulted in Facebook having to do what it is legally obligated to do and pay the lawyers for the privilege. This is Social networking at its finest.

We old, middle-aged. cynical, and skeptical observers, waiting patiently for reply messages from college students on Facebook or the newly employed in cities far away, know nothing of this kind of situation. After all, it is not possible that Facebook is really a marketing scheme intended to use our personal data to target us for the appropriate product. It is all fresh and new and about Social Media and people over 40 are so clueless.

Wake up Generation X & Y-you sheep!! This is the same old thing, just a different day. No one is protecting your privacy and only the lawyers are getting paid.

Dead people still have pages because Facebook wants to keep track of their friends and relatives for marketing reasons. Grief is intensely personal.

Let's show some class and reject this thinly veiled attempt to have a community who may or not may not care watch our pain so they can make a buck.


  1. Good job. I am old, middle-aged, and clueless. Thanks for be willing to speak up and let us know about this stuff. Does the google ads on this site do the same thing? Reni

  2. Not exactly. You have a choice here to click through the ads or not and it will not alter your experience.

    On FB, you MUST participate because that is the entire point. Not participating is WRONG. It is rude. That is the whole social thing that they have created around this ruse to get more info on you and your friends. Just observing is creepy on FB...but not here. June