Social Media Users Can Create "Online Executor" In Will

5:05 PM, Feb 5, 2012   |    comments
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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Signing up for Facebook isn't exactly a "till death do us part" agreement.... Or is it? A new proposal is on the books about who decides what happens to your social networking legacy when you die.

It's been said there's no such thing as a digital death. Canisius College Adjunct Professor and Social Media Expert Renee Martinez says, "It's digital and it's here to stay so we need to manage our lives in a way that protects ourselves and our loved ones."

All over Facebook, you find page that belong to those who have died. Friends and loved ones continue to write messages of condolences. But on other pages of people who are deceased, some memories are not so nice, and the pages need to come down. But how?

"I think we're beginning to realize that this material leaves a digital footprint. And that really no matter what you put up always remains despite your loss in the world," says Martinez.

Brooklyn Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D- 51) introduced legislation just this week that will allow people to designate an "online executer" in their will who can terminate social networking accounts. "This particular legislation will protect not only the individual that passed away but also the family as a whole," Ortiz told 2 On Your Side by phone Friday.

It's important to note most social media sites already have death policies. Facebook accounts for example can be continued post mortem, deleted, or memorialized. Family members or friends just complete a form and provide proof of death, like an obituary, news article or link. They don't need a password.

Users can also pay sites like Entrustet,Legacy Locker and Data Inherit to do the deleting for them and take the burden off family members.

At Spot Coffee downtown, social media users we spoke with admit they never thought about leaving their social media wishes in their will and their feelings about the proposed law are mixed.

"Honestly I think I should put that in there because it would be a big stepping stone especially if somebody else didn't like having someone else post on my page while I was gone," says Facebook user Katie Borczynski.

On the flip said Facebook user Nan Sorenson said, " I don't think I'd feel comfortable having anybody have my account information would be available to them after I'm not here." 

The legislation still has to work its way through Albany before it's signed into law. Other states are considering and have even passed similar legislation like Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Facebook tells 2 On Your Side it has yet to review Ortiz's legislation proposal so it won't comment on that matter. The following is it's statement on its death policy.

"We believe we have put in effective policies that address the accounts that are left behind by the deceased. When we receive a report that a person on Facebook is deceased, we put the account in a special memorialized state.  Certain more sensitive information is removed, and privacy is restricted to friends only. The profile and Wall are left up so that friends and loved ones can make posts in remembrance. If we're contacted by a close family member with a request to remove the profile entirely, we will honor that request. People can submit reports through dedicated forms in our Help Center. These forms are linked to from the following FAQ. We will provide the estate of the decease with a download of the account's data if prior consent is obtained from or decreed by the decease, or mandated by law." Fred Wolens, Facebook Policy Communications

Here is a link to a blog post Facebook has done on the issue.

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