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Facebook digital assets hard to reach from beyond the grave

Social media giants don't allow loved ones to access accounts poshumously. (Paul Sakuma/Associated Press)

As the storage of our memories moves out of albums and shoeboxes and into secure online vaults, the need for posthumous planning and new legislation has become more apparent.

Our lives are increasingly captured in digital images, online videos and emails. Our thoughts, poured into tweets, status updates and blog pots. When we shuffle off this mortal coil, mementos of who we were live on, but gaining access to them is harder than simply inheriting a password.

There are over one billion Facebook users in the world and it's estimated that three die every minute, leaving ghost profiles behind in cyberspace.

A battle is waging in the U.S. as a mother fights to access her son's 'digital assets' on Facebook.

Karen Williams in Oregon has been trying to unlock her son's store of thoughts, pictures and videos locked inside his account since he passed away from a motorcycle accident in 2005.

There is no widespread method for beneficiaries to gain access to the deceased's digital assets. In Canada there is no legislation in place and no precedent for estate trustees.

In the U.S. a federal law from 1986 prohibits companies from sharing a person's information even if it's stipulated in their last will and testament. Simply handing over your passwords in a will violates most social network terms of service agreements, which can lead to your loved ones being charged with cybercrimes facing civil action from Internet companies under that federal law.

These laws have caused bereaved loved ones to go to battle against large corporations such
as Facebook and Twitter to little or no avail.

Williams inspired the Oregon Legislature to propose a change in the laws, but it was swatted down by the tech industry, which drew upon the old federal law from 1986 in its defense.

Currently, five states have varying degrees of digital asset laws in place -- Connecticut, Indiana, Idaho, Oklahoma and Rhode Island -- but none exist in Oregon.

Many experts predict that the problem with grow and persist until some type of legislation is in place to determine how your virtual wishes are to be handled.

How prepared are you for your final log out? Do any of your loved ones know your passwords?

Tags: POV, Social Media

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