As one unlucky Facebook user found out, it doesn’t take much to convince Facebook that someone is dead – even if they’re very much alive. Randy Foster, a 36-year-old (not dead) Maine man, had his Facebook account locked because someone reported him as being deceased. The process for claiming a fellow Facebook user is dead is surprisingly simple, and distressingly easy to exploit; simply fill out a simple “Memorialization Request” form and the process begins. Facebook needs an obituary or a news source to verify that the person is dead, and as Buzzfeed editor Katie Notopoulos found out in an experiment to “kill” one of her co-workers, that part’s pretty easy too. She used the obituary of a 74-year-old man living in a different part of the country whose name was similar, not even the same, to the co-worker she was attempting to memorialize on Facebook. However, her co-worker was still removed.
“We have designed the memorialization process to be effective for grieving families and friends, while still providing precautions to protect against either erroneous or malicious efforts to memorialize the account of someone who is not deceased,” Facebook said in a statement to ABC News. “We also provide an appeals process for the rare instances in which accounts are mistakenly reported or inadvertently memorialized.”
While Facebook’s efforts to protect the privacy of its deceased users are admirable; hopefully, they will consider stronger privacy safeguards for its living users in the future.
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