Few things evolve faster than Internet technology. So too, are access-rights issues like what happens to a person’s digital assets after they pass away.
In our increasingly all-digital culture, personal property like photographs, letters and financial assets are created and stored online. This poses important privacy questions to today’s global online community, including: What happens to someone’s online content after they pass away? Perhaps even more important: Who has access to it?
Last week, the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) drafted The Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, a ‘model’ law that would let families access their deceased loved one’s social media accounts. The ULC wants states throughout the country to adopt the law, given the fast evolving nature of this increasingly visible issue.
“This is the concept of ‘media neutrality,’ ” says Ben Orzeske, ULC legislative counsel. “The law gives the executor of your estate access to digital assets in the same way he or she had access to your tangible assets in the ‘old’ world.”
The implications are a hot topic open to debate. ULC lawmakers hope the law will help family members access their deceased loved one’s digital property, including assets with both sentimental and practical value like photographs, diaries and financial statements.
Yet Carl Szabo, policy counsel for the NetChoice eCommerce trade association — whose members include AOL, Yahoo, Facebook and Google — says the law would threaten the deceased’s privacy. “It sets the default privacy to zero,” Szabo says.
Companies must now look for new ways to protect their users’ privacy while adhering to the new law if it’s adopted.
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