At the end of Facebook’s recent announcement about privacy settings of memorialized profiles and the availability of Look Back videos to friends of the deceased users, a final paragraph hints at more to come from Facebook.
Changes like this are part of a larger, ongoing effort to help people when they face difficult challenges like bereavement on Facebook. We will have more to share in the coming months as we continue to think through how best to help people decide how they want to be remembered and what they want to leave behind for loved ones.
While I have no idea what Facebook will do next, I do have a few predictions:
- With efforts from the Uniform Laws Commission Committee on Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets coming close to an end, I suspect that Facebook will want to indicate to lawmakers that it’s complying with the wishes of the deceased. This might indicate additional user settings like Google’s Inactive Account Manager to allow users fine-grained control of what happens to their profile and data once they’re gone.
- As a follow-on to #1, Facebook already offers the ability to download all of your data into a zip file that’s 100% accessible and viewable without Facebook’s servers. This is a great tool for backup and personal archiving. I’ve recommended that families try to obtain this before requesting memorialization of a loved one’s account. Perhaps Facebook will allow access to this file according to the settings I suggest above.
- As a public company, we should remember that Facebook has an obligation to provide returns for shareholders. As users of a free service, we’re essentially the product for advertisers. While Facebook can’t profit directly from deceased users, perhaps they can offer services that might increase users’ engagement with memorialized profiles. Perhaps this would be an enhanced interface to explore and engage with the contents of a loved one’s profile. This last prediction is a stretch, but something like this could be in the works.
We’re always happy to see efforts that solve the issues presented by dying in the digital age, but since there’s no firm announcement here, we’ll have to wait and see before taking a stand on this one.