FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. Tim Briggs
Briggs bill would help family access social media accounts of deceased loved ones
HARRISBURG, Aug. 17 – State Rep. Tim Briggs, D-Montgomery, is introducing legislation that would authorize the personal representatives of people who have died to shut down or otherwise govern the social media accounts of their deceased family or friends.
According to Briggs, Pennsylvania law grants personal representatives the right to access and acquire personal and real property of a decedent but does not explicitly provide these representatives the right to gain access to online accounts in order to continue or deactivate their loved ones' profiles.
"The use of social media has become an increasingly common method of networking by all generations, and the number of diverse social media networking websites continues to surge," Briggs said.
"While the number of online social media accounts multiplies, there is also growth in the amount of inactive accounts, some attributable to the death of account holders.
"We should modernize our law by ensuring that authorized personal representatives have the right to access and manage social media networking accounts, and to make a final determination regarding whether to limit content that is included in an existing online profile or to ultimately deactivate the account."
Briggs said most social networking sites have a process in which family or personal representatives can petition to have the account locked or deactivated. However, much proof and paperwork is required and, in some cases, access to the account is still not granted.
"There are many things a personal representative must deal with when a friend or family member dies," Briggs said. "In addition to working through the grieving process, friends and family often must wade through mounds of paperwork and personal items in order to settle accounts, cancel services and carry out the wishes of the deceased. The last thing they need is to have to jump through hoops in order to close or alter an account that may be a painful reminder or could be subject to identity thieves. My legislation is meant to ease their burden."
Briggs said New Jersey and Nebraska are considering similar bills.
According to information from the Pew Research Center, 66 percent of online adults were using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter as of February 2012 and the percentage of online adults that use social networking sites on an average day has increased from 27 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2012.
Briggs legislation is expected to be sent to the House Judiciary Committee for review.