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I mean a famous person who died only a few years ago. (And the account had the deceased person's picture as an avatar.)

There was days-old activity and, at first, I thought he was the real deal. But when I looked at Wikipedia, I found out he was no longer living. So unless the Internet managed to connect to the next world...

I am just curious as to what is policy re the undead?

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There are very few policies regarding usernames. See Username restrictions and How permissive should we be with user names? for discussions of the general matter.

But impersonation is not admitted. However, since you say the famous person in question passed away already, it cannot be considered as impersonation.

It may be in bad taste; my reaction might depend a bit on who it is. It can even be offensive, though you description rather suggests it is not in this case. Offensive usernames are also not tolerated, but the threshold for offensive is rather high for this aspect.

In general, I'd say this is admissible, though personally I'd prefer it was not done.

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    $\begingroup$ This is pretty much how I feel about it. No explicit rules I know of, we judge case-by-case $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Feb 12 '16 at 19:32
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    $\begingroup$ @quid: Yes, the username is not offensive. But it had a hint of plausibility of being the real person (familiar to those who read psychology and math). So unless you know he was actually dead, then it was a bit misleading, I guess. $\endgroup$ – Tito Piezas III Feb 12 '16 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ @TitoPiezasIII I'd be mildly curious who. Perhaps a suggestion to reconsider the choice of display name would be appropriate. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Feb 12 '16 at 20:03
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    $\begingroup$ @TitoPiezasIII I agree with Daniel. Some users just may not realize there is a risk of confusion. Especially for younger users somebody may already seem like a historical figure even if in actually reality this somebody is still alive, or passed away only somewhat recently. $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 12 '16 at 20:15
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielFischer: I don't want to get anyone in trouble, hence the vagueness. And since his account has been in MSE for months already, I guess the mods and others must have found his activity as unremarkable. So I'll appeal to, "..discretion as the better part of valour". :) $\endgroup$ – Tito Piezas III Feb 12 '16 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ @TitoPiezasIII Trouble would be very unlikely. If it were something that gets the account into trouble, it would most likely have been flagged a while ago. Perhaps it would be a case of posting a comment along the lines of "Some people may find your choice of display name in bad taste, it may be a good idea to consider changing it". Perhaps not even that. But if you don't want to name the account, no problem. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Feb 12 '16 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ There is a possibility that the user the famous person's photo as avatar because his/her real name is identical to that person's. $\endgroup$ – user1551 Feb 14 '16 at 22:06
  • $\begingroup$ @user1551 Indeed "collisions" of names do happen. I am not quite sure though why somebody with a famous namesake would use the picture of this different person with the same name as their avatar. $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 14 '16 at 22:10
  • $\begingroup$ "...since you say the famous person in question passed away already, it cannot be considered as impersonation." I don't think that is necessarily true, unless it is well-publicized that so-and-so is dead. $\endgroup$ – Chris Chudzicki Feb 26 '16 at 14:13
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The actual Kim peek wasn't a theoretical physicist, so I think it likely that if someone knows what the real Kim Peek looks like, and recognises his name, they will know from the description that this isn't the real Kim Peek.

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  • $\begingroup$ @GEdgar English isn't my first language, I am not sure what you are asking, or if you are making a pun, with the change between peak and peek. If he changes his name, it will change on all posts surely, but not in comment addresses. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Feb 13 '16 at 15:47
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry for the misprint. It seems if you change your username, then all your past questions and answers get the new username. So even if you changed it after the death of that person, it may still appear to be impersonation. $\endgroup$ – GEdgar Feb 13 '16 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ @GEdgar Yes, this is the case. It changes all questions and answers names. It only doesn't change any references to you, I.e. comment references (@abc will forever be @abc). $\endgroup$ – Thomas Feb 13 '16 at 16:05
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I don't know what the rules on this are. I can only say what I think would be reasonable.

In the nature of the Internet the information that the person has passed away may be unavailable to some people but not others for rather arbitrary reasons. Also happens that incorrect information spreads rather quickly. So I'd say anything dependent on availability and correctness of information should be taken with a grain of salt as it can really be out of any number of involved individuals control.

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