Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Facebook: Communicate With The Deceased

Facebook recent redesign has brought with it the usual plethora of complaints, praises and oddities. As one would assume, there are already multiple Facebook groups denouncing the changes and calling for a reintroduction of the "Old" Facebook - which if we all remember was the one that people complained about. In fact I have even seen a number of so called 'hacks' to allow you to make your account look like it hasn't changed.

These, however, are all things that we could have seen coming. Nothing in it is too surprising. What is surprising and something I'm sure no one in Facebook had even thought of, is the inundation of emails to Facebook Towers from angry users who have been asked to reconnect with deceased friends!

Facebook have hit several high profile headlines with there introduction of a new sidebar box that highlights friends that you haven't communicated with in a while, and tries to encourage you to connect with them, either by messaging or poking. Unfortunately the new ‘reconnecting’ service has turned into a minor PR catastrophe. Matters did not improve when Facebook’s head of security responded with a solution - requesting proof of death such as an obituary or news article.

All of this, of course, comes on the back of Facebook's introduction of the option for family and friends to ‘memorialise’ profiles of members who have died. Effectively all sensitive information is removed and the profile becomes a static memorial.

Online fraud involving the deceased isn't new. Identity fraud is a major problem in most countries and the people involved are continuing to find security loopholes to steal identities. In light of the Facebook security request, it is difficult to believe that anyone would have difficulty forging an obituary or news article.

This is, however, an important are to consider. especially with the unprecedented amounts of personal data stored and published online through Social Media. According to CIFAS, the UK’s fraud prevention service, during the first quarter of 2009 there has been a massive 74 per cent increase in deceased identity fraud compared to the same period in 2008. So remember, it's extremely important to know who you give your details to, and what they intend to use them for.

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