Monday, March 23, 2009

BPN 1315 Removing subs to social networks at death

Last week I attended the funeral of a former colleague of the Dutch technology research centre. Former and present colleagues of him were present at the burial and brought back many good memories.

When I came home, I just googled on his name and noticed some 100.000 links. Many of those links went back to his reports and writings. But I also discovered entries to social networks such as LinkedIn and Plaxo. That begged for the question, who will strike out the profiles?

The basic question is of course whether he left his access code and password somewhere around or with a friend. If he did not, his relatives might see the name popping up regularly. And for people new to the deceased one, it is awkward when they asked to be linked and do not hear anything.

For the social network organisation, it means that the organisation will build up a ghost database of deceased subscribers. This can have an effect on the marketing status of the social network. A core of active users and a slew of ghost subscribers is the fastest way to destruction. In 1989 Compuserve acquired the pioneer information service The Source and dismantled it integrating the active users and suspending the many ghost users.

So the question is now: who will cancel the entry. The company will not do it as they do not know about the death. The next of kin can only do if they have the code and password. Such only happens when death is foreseen; which was not the case with my former colleague. The chance is great that there is no access code and password to be found on the computer or in a log.

What can be done? I looked at the conditions of one of the social networks and there is no mention about the death of a subscriber. It is unbelievable that the administrators of social networks think that subscribers have the eternal life with them. Cynically you could offer the suggestion to move the deceased subscribers to Second Life. Yet I guess that the nearest of kin will have to write a physical letter with a copy of the death certificate to the administration of the social network and request removal from the site. (It is strange to see that you can start subscription online as a legal procedure, but to request removal you will have to write a physical letter and send it by registered mail!).

Come to think of it, that I registered for a lot of social networks, more for the purpose of lurking than for active participation. Although I do not have the intention to pass away soon, I should register my access codes and passwords and put them in the safe. But of course when changes are made, I might have forgotten to effect the changes also in the register in the safe.

Blog Posting Number: 1315


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