NEW YORK (PIX11) — When John Berlin uploaded a tearful plea to Facebook on YouTube, he said he didn’t mean to cause a commotion. All he wanted was to retrieve 62 seconds from the son he lost in a form of an automated video that Facebook rolled out to its users this week.
“My son died on January 28, 2012 and we can’t access his Facebook account,” Berlin said as he wiped away tears. “We just want to see his movie. That’s it.”
After a few short hours, his plea – which he called “My appeal to Facebook” – exploded online, catching the attention of millions, including PIX11, which reached out to Berlin and Facebook, ultimately getting the two connected.
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“They basically just said they were gonna cut through some red tape and make it happen,” he said. “Because of the video they said they are now going to check their policies and stuff and see about helping families who lost loved ones on how to get their pages memorialized.”
Berlin’s story is a lot like others and sheds light on a big question – what rights does a family have when it comes to gaining access to a Facebook profile after an unexpected tragedy.
PIX11 contacted Facebook which offered up some options.
One option that’s encouraged – memorializing a profile — is widely practiced.
Upon filling out the proper forms which includes providing a proof of death, the profile’s wall becomes open for friends and family to post condolences.
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The other option is to delete the account, which involves more or less the same application process.
Facebook maintains that releasing login information for any account is a violation of their policies. “John’s story and emotion moved us to take action – so we did,” Facebook said in a statement, referring to Berlin’s case.
“This experience reinforced to us that there’s more Facebook can do to help people celebrate and commemorate the lives of people they have lost. We’ll have more to share in the coming weeks and months.”
Another issue PIX11 brought to Facebook’s attention was, what happens if a minor who is underage with a Facebook profile, passes away. Would their legal guardian be able to gain access to their profile?
The same policy of privacy is practiced, a spokesperson said. Facebook does not release login information for any user, young or old, dead or alive.