37

I feel kind of insensitive for asking about this.

I am connected to a guy that suddenly died about a month ago of natural causes. I was just looking through my connections on LinkedIn, and apparently his family never deleted his account or whatever happens to a LinkedIn account when somebody dies. I am the sort that wants to keep his network "up-to-date" and "organized," but I don't want to be insensitive to his family should they be checking his forwarded email.

I don't think this guy had much family (divorced with son) and I think his son would control his digital legacy. Unfortunately, his son is only about 10 years old, which doesn't mean that he is going to be taking care of these items for a long while.

So, I have 3 questions:

  • Is it bad form to remove a LinkedIn connection once the connection dies?
  • Should I wait for the family to deal with his digital items?
  • What is an acceptable period to wait before removing the connection?

He didn't have many connections, and I've also noted that none of his other connections have removed their links to him either.

  • 4
    I'm not sure I understand the premise of the question. Who are you afraid will be wronged by your removing the connection? The deceased himself? His family? – eykanal Feb 24 '13 at 2:44
  • Possibly the family and possibly former colleagues who are also connected to the guy on LinkedIn. I don't know; is there some kind of notification sent when somebody unlinks? – jdb1a1 Feb 24 '13 at 3:32
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    What are you trying to gain? – user8365 Feb 25 '13 at 1:14
  • I think the guy just wants to avoid any unnecessary upset to the grieving family. I have been in the same position. In my case I just left it as-is and didn't act to remove the deceased. I'm disappointed when I see him being endorsed for various skills he may/may not have had, two years after his passing... – VictorySaber Aug 20 '14 at 12:11
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    I don't think LinkedIn sends any kind of notification when you remove your connection from someone. – Seth R Mar 25 at 21:25
53

LinkedIn actually has a form you can fill out to report that a profile has been left behind by a deceased colleague. This will allow LinkedIn customer service to remove the profile themselves rather than have his son happen upon the profile himself 5-10 years down the road when it thoughtlessly suggests his dead father under "people you may know".

Verification of Death - Deceased Member

From LinkedIn's privacy policy:

Memorializing Accounts

If we learn that a User is deceased, we may memorialize the User’s account. In these cases we may restrict profile access, remove messaging functionality, and close an account if we receive a formal request from the User’s next of kin or other proper legal request to do so.

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  • 1
    notice it said next of kin or other proper legal request. you won't get far just because you knew the guy – squeemish Feb 26 '13 at 19:50
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    It's actually contradictory, the privacy policy says "next of kin" but the customer service page that links to the form starts with "Unfortunately, there may be a time when you come across a profile of a deceased colleague, classmate, or connection. If this occurs, you can notify Customer Service that the profile still exists and may need to be removed." I'm guessing they do some sort of "memorialization" deal if you're not next of kin instead of nuking it entirely. – Joe Baker Feb 27 '13 at 5:01
20

From the LinkedIn Removing a Connection help page:

Connections will not be notified that they have been removed from your connections list.

So, nobody will be overtly notified that you have remove this connection. The only way for somebody to find out, is if they are connected to both you and the other user, and they are keeping watch on your connections (or his) to see if they change.

As to whether it's insensitive, or bad form - why would it be? As you say, people add and remove contacts all the time, and this should be no different. To paraphrase Ricky Gervais - "Offence is taken, not given."

You can only do what you feel is right, and I, for one, see no problem with removing this contact. If somebody wants to be offended, then they will be regardless of your intent.

Waiting for the family to take action, isn't really your concern. Let them do what they need to, and you do what you need to.

As for an acceptable time period to wait - the key word here is acceptable. That's down to you. How long do you think is right? It's your LinkedIn account, and your network, so how long is acceptable to you?

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  • Indeed, LI doesn't notify you when someone disconnects from you. – GreenMatt Feb 24 '13 at 13:38
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    This is good info and I appreciate it. – jdb1a1 Feb 24 '13 at 14:48
4

Where possible, if you know that a 'live' account on social media belongs to a deceased person, you should report it to the site. For LinkedIn, instructions are here.

Depending on the site, this will either result in the account being removed/hidden, or set to some kind of "memorial" mode that restricts further changes. However, if you can't do this (e.g. site policy says only next of kin can report), and the account remains live, you should delete the connection.

Deceased accounts are a security problem. Dead people don't find out when their account credentials and passwords have been leaked. They don't get notifications when somebody else attempts an account recovery process. If somebody gets control of their account and starts abusing it, there is no way for friends to contact them and say "hey, I think you need to change your password".

Once somebody gets control of a dead person's account, connections can be abused. People on LI often use connections as a metric of trust: "I don't know this person who's just sent a request, but they are connected to my friend, so they must be legit". Somebody who controls your dead contact's account is in a better position to trick your other contacts into accepting requests, yada yada.

Depending on your settings, connections may also have more access to info about you. You probably don't want a crook getting notifications every time you update your profile.

Most likely, the family won't notice that you dropped the connection. If they do, it's probably better for that to happen at the time than months or years down the track.

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  • +1 for the infosec angle which hadn't occurred to me. LinkedIn doesn't send a notification when you "un-connect" from someone, btw. – seventyeightist Mar 26 at 17:53
-2

I recently found out that a voice teacher I had many years ago in NYC passed away by tracing through LinkedIn. She was high society with a father and grandfather as heads of Metropolitan Opera and an aunt who was a founder of Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.

For deleting your connection to the deceased I don't believe there is anything wrong with that. However for notifying LinkedIn to remove the profile, who appears to have a lack of policy on this, I think that is in bad form. My reasoning is for the same reason the U.S. recently enacted a law requiring the National Archives to retain all Presidential social media interactions.

For a practical matter LinkedIn contains a person's lifetime of work. Unless the user has made arrangements to remove their records prior to death I believe this information should be retained for posterity. I wish LinkedIn could just mark the person as deceased with links to obituaries or other external associated websites on that individual as well as remembrances.

Whether small or great everyone on this site has made an impact on the world and their information should be retained like art in a museum.

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  • Interesting! Your answer sounds very Americian! As a typical European, I would be more inclined to say "the account should be deleted unless the person has had made arrangements to keep it". One should not find information about someone unless the person speciafically agrees to that (or when iz is public information). – guest Mar 25 at 21:34
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    Without a "memorial" style option, leaving an account active when the user has died is a security risk. I'll elaborate on this in a separate answer. – Geoffrey Brent Mar 25 at 22:03

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