Q: My husband died in February, leaving me and our minor child as his sole heirs. In the days before his death, he deleted his Facebook account because he didn’t want anyone “memorializing” his page.
Since then, I’ve discovered that some estranged family members have created a memorial page from scratch, including unauthorized images of my minor child. I have tried to get Facebook to remove this page with no success.
I don’t have a Facebook account, but every time the company sends an email, it says I must be “logged in” to my account to view it. I have even asked my state attorney general to intercede for me. Facebook ignored my attorney general.
Facebook notified me this week that it is unable to resolve the issue, and closed the case. Can you help? — Jennifer Stathakis, Morgantown, West Virginia
A: I’m so sorry for your loss. If your late husband wanted to be removed from Facebook, then his wishes should be respected — if not by his estranged family, then by Facebook.
Easier said than done. It looks like you’ve tried asking the family and Facebook, which is the logical first step. I also publish the names, numbers and email addresses of Facebook’s executives on my consumer-advocacy site: www.elliott.org/company-contacts/facebook
Your issues aren’t really addressed in Facebook’s terms of service (https://www.facebook.com/terms.php) or its community standards (https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards). You might be able to compel the family to remove your photos based on a copyright claim (https://www.facebook.com/help/1020633957973118?helpref=about_content). Perhaps letting Facebook know that someone is publishing your copyrighted photos (if indeed they are copyrighted) would be one road you could take. But I’m not a lawyer.
Further complicating your case is the fact that you don’t have your own Facebook account. The company assumes that if you have a problem with Facebook, you also have a Facebook account. But that’s not a valid assumption. In fact, I can think of many instances when someone might have a problem with something on Facebook but not have an account, including several of my own family members. But I digress.
I felt strongly that even though there’s no Facebook policy that would require the social network to delete your husband’s tribute page, it should at least consider doing so in the interests of good customer service. I made numerous efforts to contact the company on your behalf, asking it to remove the offending page or at least the photos of your 12-year-old daughter. Unfortunately, all of my requests were answered the same way yours were: with silence.
This is one of those rare cases that wasn’t resolved to your satisfaction, but that I’m writing about anyway. I think it’s a cautionary tale about private information in the information age. And a regrettable one. It’s probably little consolation to you that at some point the offensive information will be deleted, but probably not soon enough for you.
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