Proposed law tackles question of social media content after death

NORWALK – When you die, will your tweets and Facebook posts die also, or should they be accessible to grieving family members? That is a question addressed by AB 691, legislation proposed by Assemblyman Ian Calderon last week. The legislation would allow social media users to choose whether they want their digital assets stored online or to remain private after they die.

AB 691 would safeguard personal information after a person's death and allow access "to only those people we want to share our digital property with," Calderon said. The measure authorizes disclosure through a written declaration, such as a will, or through a setting within their online account.

Currently, families trying to access a deceased family member's social media account are bound by the content's online privacy settings.

This causes unnecessary financial and emotional burden on families, said Calderon, adding that online companies "should not bear the responsibility of deciding what to do with a deceased individual’s digital assets."

“Today, a significant portion of the information about our lives is kept online on our personal accounts,” said Calderon. “The digital assets we “own” on social media sites or in our emails are private information, and individuals should have the right to choose whether they remain private after their die.”

A recent Zogby poll indicated that 70% of Americans say their online communications and photos should remain private after they die, unless they gave prior consent for others to have access.

In the same study, only 15% say that estate attorneys should control their private communications and photos, even if they gave no prior consent for sharing.