A grieving family’s campaign to reinstate the social media pictures and postings of a loved one killed in a motorcycle accident has highlighted the modern risks surrounding the digital assets of the deceased.
The Facebook profile of Brisbane father-of-six Daniel Cook, 34, was deleted a few weeks after his sudden death on March 14.
Devastated family members are demanding that Facebook restore Daniel’s “digital diary” and have launched an online petition, generating more than 2700 signatures so far.
Daniel’s former wife Fiona Wrigley told The New Daily that Facebook deleted his profile but did not inform her, his partner nor any of his children.
She said her two children – Abby, 17, and Curtis, 14 – were especially distressed because it was an important means of keeping their father’s memory alive.
“There were his photos and posts about them – a link to him they no longer have,” she said.
Facebook confirmed the page had been deleted and that it could not be reinstated. This action was only taken at the request of “an extremely close family member” who also provided a death certificate.
However, Mrs Wrigley said nobody involved in “the day-to-day life” of the family had asked for the profile to be deleted.
“Not his ex-wife, his partner, his children nor his older sister,” she said.
“Anyway, I would assume that as a major IT company, Facebook would have recovery procedures and they would have the technical expertise to restore the profile.”
In the online petition, Mrs Wrigley urges Facebook to uphold its social commitment to foster connections and relationships between people – “… as a place to share thoughts and photos with loved ones”.
” … By refusing to reinstate Daniel’s Facebook page they are doing the complete opposite – driving a wedge between Daniel’s heartbroken children and the visual memory of their beloved father.”
Mrs Wrigley called on Facebook to review its policy regarding deceased accounts and also warns of the risks to the social media assets of those who pass away.
“Current Facebook policy dictates that any family member or close friend, estranged or otherwise, can request an account closed. Facebook actions this request without any further consideration, and without available recourse for reversing it. They do not consider, nor even contact, beneficiaries or next of kin,” Mrs Wrigley says.
“This policy needs to be changed as it effectively means that we are all vulnerable to losing this precious link to our loved ones. It takes a single email from a disgruntled family member, or close friend to permanently erase our histories.
“We are calling on Facebook to immediately review this policy and recover and memorialise the profile of Daniel Cook. Stop denying his kids access to the glimpse into the man their father was.”
An article published by The New Daily last year raised the issue of what happens to the online personal information of people who die and recommended ways to ensure that this “data legacy” is safely passed on.
A Facebook spokesperson told The New Daily that all online providers faced the difficult task of “responding appropriately” to information requests from grieving families while complying with privacy legislation and “a myriad of state and federal laws”.
Facebook had developed a memorialisation process to ensure family and friends continued to have access to the profile of loved ones – including photos, videos and posts.
“Our standard procedure when we receive a report that a user is deceased is to memorialise the account, which restricts profile and search privacy to friends only, but leaves the profile up so that friends and family can leave posts in remembrance,” the spokesperson said.
To memorialise an account, the reporting person had to provide evidence of death, such as an obituary or news article.
“Also, we do honour requests from close family members to delete the account, which is what we did in this specific case,” the spokesperson said.