Facebook Apologizes for Insensitive App Reminding Dad of His Little Girl's Death

If you logged onto Facebook this month, you probably saw a "Your Year in Review" app that you could choose to share with friends. Clicking through it, you would have seen "highlights" of your year -- probably posts that got the most responses. But Facebook was forced to apologize for its insensitivity to at least one man who was upset at having one "milestone" in his year rehashed -- that of the tragic death of his little girl.

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Web consultant Eric Meyer was shocked when the face of his little girl, Rebecca, who died of brain cancer, popped up on Facebook with the tagline, "Eric, here's what your year looked like!"

He wrote on his blog:

Yes, my year looked like that. True enough. My year looked like the now-absent face of my little girl. It was still unkind to remind me so forcefully.

And I know, of course, that this is not a deliberate assault. This inadvertent algorithmic cruelty is the result of code that works in the overwhelming majority of cases, reminding people of the awesomeness of their years, showing them selfies at a party or whale spouts from sailing boats or the marina outside their vacation house.

But for those of us who lived through the death of loved ones, or spent extended time in the hospital, or were hit by divorce or losing a job or any one of a hundred crises, we might not want another look at this past year.

True enough. This is what happens when anonymous computer algorithms re-create the memorable moments of your year -- there is no human heart there to sympathetically sift through what a person might want to be reminded of from what he or she might dread being reminded of.

Meyer's blog post went viral, and eventually the app's product manager, Jonathan Gheller, got in touch and apologized.

I myself was shown a picture of the cat I had put to sleep this past summer -- not exactly a dead child, but still something I didn't choose to be reminded of at that moment. Others have similar stories.

This is the danger of handing a computer the reins of what a human brain should be doing -- sorting someone's photos and life through a lens of empathy and common sense.

But it's also a reminder of what someone may or may not choose to share on Facebook. We already know the company is archiving everything little thing we post on there -- who knows what else it is doing with photos and updates. Word to the wise!

Facebook reportedly vows to try and do better next year.

Did your "Year in Review" contain any painful memories?

 

Image via MeyerWeb.com

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