Facebook “Ghost Profiles” Haunt The Living

Death and social networking just don’t mix.

If you’re one of the many people who consider Facebook to be creepy, then we have a Halloween scare for you. Imagine Facebook’s people search engine recommending that you reconnect with a deceased friend or family member online.

It is estimated that over 1.5 million people on Facebook will die this year, leaving behind “ghost profiles” that can appear in Facebook’s friend suggestions to their still living social circle. These deceased people profiles can be a disturbing sight for Facebook users.

Facebook has acknowledged that they have a problem with “ghost profiles” and the emotional trouble they can cause for people who use the site.

Courtney Purvin is one of many people who have been affected by the profiles of deceased loved ones on Facebook. Facebook recently recommended that she reconnect with an old friend of hers who died in April 2011. Purvin described the incident as “freaky”, like having someone close to you come back from the dead.

So far Facebook has had a hard time developing technology that determines that a registered user is deceased, creating some bizarre events as deceased user profiles find their way into the sites social graph algorithms.

Ghost profiles were less of a problem on Facebook when their user base was mostly young, college-age people. However, as Facebook opened up their network to the world, many older people signed up. When older users die naturally or younger users die tragically, this can lead to a “ghost in the network”.

Facebook spokeswoman Meredith Chin admits that this problem can be painful for people, but says a good solution to ghost profiles on social networks will never be perfect.

One possible solution to this problem is to allow users to report the profile as belonging to a deceased person. Facebook is currently working on a tool that would monitor users profiles for messages implying that the person has died, such as, “rest in peace”, and then have a person investigate the profile.

As Facebook’s social network grows larger, there may be three things you can count on in life: Death, Taxes and Facebook.

For more information on the topic of Facebook’ people search or “ghost profiles” see the following: