In its current state, Facebook data is owned by whoever has the password. While that makes sense for those in the living, the question of who controls the data after death remains somewhat clouded.
Facebook holds an immense amount of personal data. The social networking giant continues to grow and dominate all social networks by a staggering margin. All that success adds up to more digital footprints left behind by users and has raised the question as to whether or not Facebook data should be considered part of one’s estate.
Social media accounts are now being viewed by some states in an effort to determine their place, if any, in one’s estate. Oklahoma was the first state to pass such a law in 2011 with Nebraska currently reviewing a similar model. Stories like the one recently published by The Washington Post, highlight why some people believe they should have unfettered access to a loved one’s Facebook account. Should more of these laws pass, we’ll likely see differing rules or limits to what is and isn’t part of one’s estate as well as who can take ownership of the information after death.
We need to remember Facebook is a business and can handle accounts and data as they see fit. If estate law is modified to include Facebook data, then expect Facebook to adhere tightly to those guidelines. Beyond Facebook is the broader subject of digital data as a whole and how we handle that information after death.
There’s no harm in someone taking ownership of one’s Facebook data after death, but we agree there should be limits. For starters, no posting should be allowed. It’s unnecessary and frankly a little creepy. The owner of the account should be either next of kin or adapt the law to reflect Facebook data be willed. Only the owner should have access to the account for purposes of account download (photos, messages, etc.) and a one-time post referencing the passing of the Facebook user. The account should automatically turn off all notifications from every app and friend so that those items stop appearing on the deceased user’s timeline. Plainly put, no interaction at all should be active once a user has been deemed deceased. Beyond that, the account can remain active in a memorialized state for loved ones to view from time to time.
This is a hot topic that we’d like to hear your opinions on. Do you think Facebook data should be kept by whoever has the password or regulated by law so that those who pass are protected after death? Let us know in the comments.
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