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New Laws May Grant Family Access To Deceased Person’s Digital Information

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The Facebook website is displayed on a laptop computer. (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Julie-Watts_BIO-HEAD Julie Watts
The recipient of the Emmy and AP Awards for Best Reporter, Julie’s...
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(CBS SF) — Back in the 80s and long before the rise of social media, Congress passed a law forbidding communication companies from disclosing your content without consent. Most companies continue to interpret that as meaning families don’t have a right to access your accounts after you’re gone.

One Virginia man is fighting to change the law after his son committed suicide. Ricky Rash tried to access his son’s Facebook account for answers, but he was locked out of Facebook which cited privacy laws, even after Rash sent the social media giant a copy of his son’s obituary.

Now five states, including Virginia, have since passed a law allowing parents access to digital accounts if their child dies.

Rash and his wife Diane are working with a group of lawyers to expand access nationwide. Attorney David Kauffman worked on the proposed law and says that Rash is a powerful advocate for the issue.

“Not a lawyer, no agenda. Just simply that he thinks he wants access to learn about his son’s life and wanted other people to have the same access if the situation occurred,” Kauffman said.

Although the Rash family eventually received a CD from Facebook with some information from their son’s profile, they are hoping that each state legislature will consider the proposal.

“Parents have been very surprised that they were not allowed access or that they can be denied access,” Rash said.

In states where it becomes law, loved ones will be able to retrieve a deceased relative’s digital assets unless the person left a will saying otherwise.

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