Law Proposed to Access Facebook Profiles of the Deceased

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Facebook has a problem that no one ever really thought of until its popularity grew wildly. When a user dies, who should get access to their Facebook profile? Or should access be granted at all?

State Rep. Peter Sullivan proposed a legislation that would allow the executor of an estate control over Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and other Internet profiles of the deceased. 

The legislation was initially created in an effort to prevent bullying. Sullivan noticed that a Canadian girl's Facebook page was being bombarded with nasty comments after she committed suicide. Her family members could not delete the messages because they did not have a password for the account. 

"This would give the families a sense of closure, a sense of peace. It would help prevent this form of bullying that continues even after someone dies and nobody is really harmed by it. The family wasn't able to do anything; they didn't have access to her account…they couldn't go in and delete those comments and they couldn't take the page down completely," Sullivan explained. 

A legislation was proposed prior to this to deal with Facebook pages of the deceased. Rhode Island, Indiana, Oklahoma, Idaho and Connecticut have passed legislations that deal with the digital life of the dead. 

But many legislators say that the bill does not do enough and might not be legally enforceable. 

Ryan Kiesel, an Oklahoma lawmaker who proposed a similar legislation in 2010, said it would be ideal for the federal government to establish ground rules. 

"Facebook and other online providers have changed their privacy policies to keep up with the times, but we still see a lot of flux within different sites like Facebook, Flickr, or Google, for example. The federal government should pass uniform laws to govern all digital assets because it is quite difficult for an estate to have to navigate endless numbers of digital policies postmortem," Kiesel said.