Bill aims to preserve online privacy after people pass away

OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) – Have you ever thought about what happens to your digital accounts after you die?

California Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, in Southern California said he is trying to protect people’s privacy online after they pass away by introducing A.B. 691. 

The bill, known as the Privacy Expectation Afterlife and Choices Act, would deny relatives access to electronic information, like emails, of someone who died unless a court finds the person had previously agreed to pass them onto an heir.

According to a summary of the bill found on Calderon’s website, the bill will “establish guidelines for probate courts, online service providers and estate administrators when dealing with the online assets of a deceased person.”

The bill is reportedly backed by tech companies like Facebook and Yahoo, and a lobby group that represents Google, Apple and Microsoft.

In a YouTube video posted by Assembly Report, Calderon talked about his support for the bill.

“There was a recent poll that said 70 percent of Americans believe they should have privacy after they die,” he said.

He went on to explain that the bill isn’t just for one person, but rather deals with the privacy of everyone else a person has been communicating with and whether or not they want a family or friends of a deceased seeing that communication.

Currently, a person must put their wishes in writing or change the settings on their online accounts if they do not want information from their digital accounts shared.

But Suzette Sherman said the bill favors tech companies. Sherman is the founder of SevenPonds.com, an online resource to address the contemporary changes around the end of life process. 

She helps people with information and planning before death, but said many times people will not take the time to leave their personal wishes behind.

“I would propose that it should be written in the bill that each individual should have the right when they signs up for an account or they should be prompted to an existing account, to be able to make that decision,” Sherman said. “It should be incumbent upon the companies to help [people] make that decision.”

A spokesperson for Calderon’s office said the bill would be voted on by the end of the week and has bipartisan support.

For Digital Accounts:

On Facebook, you can choose to memorialize your account and appoint a legacy contact.

On Instagram, a family member can request your account be memorialized or removed, but no one gets access.

On Twitter, your account can be deleted at the request of a family member, but no one gets access.

Google has a tool for you to choose who to share your private electronic information with by assigning an account trustee.

Yahoo will delete inactive accounts, but access to anyone else but the user is denied.

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