There is a dark side to the digital life of individuals that emerges after a person dies. The law has not yet evolved to adequately address these issues, and even companies like Facebook do not have policies that satisfy the concerns of the friends and family members of the deceased. Because this is such a sensitive issue, some people are demanding a uniformed policy, but as it now stands, the digital rights of the deceased are still ambiguous.
Facebook’s policy regarding the deceased is unclear, and there are numerous accounts where friends and family members of the deceased have felt that Facebook has neglected to satisfy their concerns. Although the company states that a formal request that “satisfies certain criteria” will grant friends and family members access, sources claim that the criteria has seldom, if ever, been met.
The suicide of 21-year-old Benjamin Stassen of Wisconsin in 2010 has reopened people’s concerns over how Facebook should honor family members of the deceased. When Stassen’s parents wanted to explore their son’s accounts for evidence that would lead them to understand the unexpected death of their son, they went through a tedious process of first trying to contact the company, and then pleading with Facebook to grant them access to their son’s account. Their requests were denied.
There are currently only five states that have attempted to create laws governing the procedure of what should be done to a deceased individual’s digital life: Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Oklahoma and Rhode Island. According to sources, Connecticut’s law is rather vague and only pertains to the deceased’s e-mail. The law in Idaho and Oklahoma will grant access to a person named in a will.
Organizations like Voice of America have tried to explore these issues. As it now stands, Skype accounts of the dead cannot be closed and Google will not grant people access to the blogger accounts of deceased individuals. MySpace is considered to be one of the only social media accounts that have made an effort to erect policies that address dead account holders.
Edited by Brooke Neuman