Facebook After Death

Over 800 million people log on to Facebook everyday. Some change statuses, upload photos, or just stalk people who they used to be friends with, but something about Facebook has lawmakers wondering what is appropriate.

I am not talking about what is appropriate in regards to privacy concerns, I am talking about the ever-growing concern of what happens to an individual’s online presence after they pass away. When a person passes, all their physical affairs are taken care of following proper protocol, but as of today, your social media presence can still live on even if you may not. This aspect of social media has lawmakers discussing possible solutions to this unfortunate and sometimes untimely problem.

Currently, there are five states in the United States that have passed laws in regards to the governing of digital asset management after death. Though this is a start to an inevitable future in digital asset management, the laws in effect now are extremely out of date.

For example, Connecticut’s digital asset management laws only regard electronic mail as a platform that can be governed after death. Connecticut law does not represent Facebook, Twitter, or blogs in its quest to provide social media users with digital piece of mind after death. Though this law seems primitive to the times, it is a start to a future that will be full of digital asset management laws.

Oklahoma, Idaho, and Alaska lawmakers are busy developing an updated version of Connecticut’s law that includes a person’s social media presence as a whole. Lawmakers are eager to require a person to sign a virtual asset instruction letter (VAIL) in order to leave rights to an online account with an individual of their choosing.

Is this all a waste of time? After all, the fine print that you never read when you create an account on a social media website does state its own provisions in regards to a death while being an active user of their program.

I do not believe that the lawmakers of our nation, in the state that our government is in, should be concerned about what happens to a person’s Facebook and Twitter after death. All social media platforms have some kind of terms of service that cover the event of a death of the owner of one of their accounts. Facebook offers a deceased individual’s family the option to request that the deceased family member’s page be converted into a permanent online memorial. Facebook also makes it clear that no login information will be given out to any individual no matter if it is family or not. This is a term of service that can be made universal over the world of social media platforms.

Though requiring all platforms to follow the Facebook terms seems plain and simple, it may not be that easy. According to Mashable.com, a Marine who passed away in Iraq owned a Yahoo! account. After his death, his family requested their sons login information to his Yahoo! email account. Yahoo! refused to release the Marine’s personal login information due to the strict privacy policies held by the company. A lawsuit ensued and eventually the family gained rights to their son’s account. This story proves that even with the strictest privacy policies information can be obtained after someone is deceased.

Regardless, if these laws pass, an individual should entrust one person with the login information of there accounts just in case of any emergency. I know I have at least four different people, who are always going to be constants in my life, who know my login information. This is just in case I need information off my accounts and I am not able to access my information at the time or if any significant emergency approaches.

The bottom line is we do not need a law to tell us how we should handle our affairs after death. This should be simple, because there are more important things in life than what happens to your Facebook status when you pass.