I recently came across a website called "FindAGrave.com" while googling my wife's name. It was, in fact, the first website listed on the search. This website provides "memorials" for thousands (millions?) of deceased persons from around the world, and each "profile" includes information about the deceased, pictures, names of family members, and other personal information that a "manager", who is usually a complete stranger, controls in the profiles. The site is a for-profit website.
I have so many problems with this. First of all, I was never contacted about the information on my wife's "memorial". I was never informed that the site even existed. According to the Frequently Asked Questions on this site, the deceased have no rights, so no permission is necessary to publish this information about my wife. Her obituary was published in newspapers, so I guess that's "public information", as well. The FAQs further state that all pictures are owned by the "manager" of the profile, so the picture of my wife that appears on this site, which is MY picture of her, is "owned" by the person who manages her profile. This "manager" is a woman ("Laura", a.k.a. "lgoldenm") who I have never had any contact with from New Jersey. She apparently manages a bunch of these "memorials". In fact, there are many people who have thanked her for providing the information about my wife that appears there.
I feel violated. The biggest issue I have is the impression that this is somehow the "official" record/website of my wife's death. This is wrong. I paid for and manage a memorial to her (at MEM.com) that has been in existence since she died, and is the official location for any and all expressions of condolences and information about my wife and us, her family. Second, I don't know how a stranger can claim ownership of a picture that I own, regardless of whether or not that picture has appeared in a newspaper as a part of an obituary. I wish I understood the legal aspects of this. Third, the only way I can contact the owners of the website to ask any questions is to create a profile. While free, I am not comfortable with providing personal information to them that is required in order to create a profile.
Finally, I'm not a fan of Ancestry.com, the current owners of FindAGrave.com. I'm sure many have opinions of the Mormon church (Church of Latter-Day Saints). Personally, I have family who are very active in the church. I have issues with many of the beliefs of the church, one being the desire of the Mormon church to "baptize" by proxy everyone who has ever lived. While Ancestry.com isn't "owned" by the Mormon church, it is run by Mormons, and as such operates under the tenets of the church. Ancestry.com provides a lot of very useful information to genealogists. However, my mother, who has done a lot of legwork to trace her own family history, has discovered errors in Ancestry.com's data, yet they will not accept her corrections. That's a different issue, of course. But Ancestry.com recently purchased FindAGrave.com, and because I want no contact with the Mormon church, it bothers me that they feel the need to provide a profile on their site for people that have no link to the Mormon church under the auspices that the dead have no rights. Right or wrong, I have an issue with this.
I haven't decided what to do about this yet. I'm really struggling with it, though, and, as I noted above, I feel violated. The picture of my wife, the fact that her "profile" is managed by someone who had never met her, the information that was not provided by me or my family, and the "ownership" that "lgoldenm" claims over my wife's "profile", including the acceptance of thanks from others for this information about my wife that appears there.... all of this bothers me. How is this right?
Have a better evening, everyone!
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