Facebook announces privacy changes for profiles of deceased

An undated photo of Mark Zuckerberg. On Tuesday,

An undated photo of Mark Zuckerberg. On Tuesday, March 24, 2014, Zuckerberg said virtual-reality technology could emerge as the next social and communications platform. (Credit: AP)

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In an effort to honor deceased users’ wishes, Facebook says it will no longer restrict who can use the social network to grieve the death of a friend or family member, reversing an earlier decision to keep memorialized accounts private.

When a Facebook user dies, family or friends can request that Facebook “memorialize” his or her profile, allowing people to share their memories of the person.

In 2009, Facebook restricted the visibility of a memorialized profile to friends only -- users could no longer search for the account or see any content unless they were Facebook friends with the person who died.

On Friday, Feb. 21, Facebook announced that the visibility of a person’s content will instead remain as it was when he or she died, keeping the privacy settings intact.

“This will allow people to see memorialized profiles in a manner consistent with the deceased person's expectations of privacy,” Facebook said in a statement. “We are respecting the choices a person made in life while giving their extended community of family and friends ongoing visibility to the same content they could always see.”

News of Facebook’s new privacy rule quickly spread.

Facebook user John Berlin, who recorded a viral YouTube video on Feb. 5 pleading for Facebook to show him his deceased son’s “Look Back” video, was especially happy about the change.

“Facebook did it. They made the change, thx to everyone for you support in making my request heard,” John Berlin commented on his YouTube video on Friday.

Berlin wanted to see his 21-year-old son Jesse’s one-minute Facebook movie. Jesse “died of natural causes, his autopsy came back undetermined,” Berlin wrote on YouTube.

Facebook responded to Berlin’s request and shared his son’s video with him two days after the YouTube video was published.

The new privacy change also allows Facebook to share “Look Back” videos of deceased users with their loved ones, a request many others have made since Berlin’s video was posted. The video has now been viewed more than 2.9 million times.

“Changes like this are part of a larger, ongoing effort to help people when they face difficult challenges like bereavement on Facebook,” Facebook said in a statement. “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.”

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