New bill could allow people to take over social media accounts

Courtesy of Entreprenuer

Floridians could designate a custodian to access and manage their social media, email and online financial accounts when they die or become incapacitated, under a bill moving through the state legislature.

Senate Bill 494 passed the Senate unanimously in mid February, and a companion House bill passed its committee reviews Wednesday and is headed to the House floor.

The bill is intended to solve what the sponsor Sen. Dorothy Hukill said were problems caused for many people when they lose the ability to access their online accounts, placing family photos, financial assets and other online data in jeopardy.

"It may be anything from all your kids' baby pictures that are in the cloud and no one can get to, all the way to life insurance policies that no one may even know about when you die," Hukill said. "In the old days you'd have a box full of papers somebody would go through now those papers are all online.”

A similar bill failed last year in part because of opposition from Internet service providers, who feared it would force them to violate their guarantees of privacy to subscribers.

"The bill now addresses the chief privacy concerns we had last year," Carl Szabo of NetChoice, a trade association of Internet companies including AOL, Facebook and Google said.

Szabo said the bill was revised grant access to authorized people.

The bill has been revised to require that owners of online accounts explicitly agree in a will or in an online tool provided by an Internet company to allow a custodian to take over the accounts in the case of death or incapacity, Szabo said.

Republican Rep. Jay Fant discussed concerns over the possibility of the confusion the bill could cause.

There can be some lack of clarity over how to obtain those assets and how to marshal those assets to the estate and this bill cleans that up, so these modern times are the things the law is catching up with,” he said.

Szabo said Google uses a tool called "inactivity account manager," and Facebook offers a "legacy contact" designation tool.

Hukill added that if there is no designation through an online tool, will or power of attorney, then accounts would be controlled under the terms of the service provider's user agreement.