A maybe-morbid-but-valuable opportunity for Facebook

Facebook life events

With their most recent Timeline update, Facebook has made the creation of a “life event” start with a series of choices. One of the “Family & Relationship” event is “Loss of a Loved One”.

I wonder if (and hope) Facebook will leverage such statuses, when the deceased’s profile is tagged in the status, to somehow flag that person’s page in a special way, to indicate that she/he has passed away (which should not mean deleting the page, or making it inaccessible).

I have been thinking of just this context, recently, from my own perspective (everybody dies at some point) as well as in the context of our WordPress.com users. If I take my case, no one but me has access to the sites I get to publish on. So what does that mean when I pass away? How will my online friends know? By the lack of updates? Hmmm…

Technically, no one having access to my sites is not entirely true, as administrators on WordPress.com could. But I happen to work there, and they’d learn the news pretty quick. But what happens to our users’ sites?

By now, most of my (meaningful) relationships are online, by ratio. People I never or rarely meet in person. That includes some family members, since I’m a 1st generation emigrant/immigrant. It doesn’t make our relationship virtual though. And I’d like [them] to know I’m [or they’re] not around any more.

On a personal level, my current idea is to leave a sealed letter to my wife, which would contain my credentials and instructions, where it matters most to me: my blog. Anything posted there would be pushed to the rest anyway. I have not yet, because it does mean a paper trail, which I’m not comfortable with. Maybe coupled with a safety deposit box.

But as a software developer, I can’t help but thinking of it from an automated detection or algorithmic perspective. To which I have no solution yet.

Ideas? Prior art? What do you think?

Update: needless to say, such an algorithm would have to get zero false positives… Flagging a living as dead would simply be a terrible thing to do. :p