Should Facebook Passwords Be Given to Our Families When We Die?

keyboardKaren Williams' 22-year-old son, Loren, died abruptly in a motorcycle crash, and after he passed, Karen, understandably, wanted access to his Facebook account. Everything these days is online -- at least the most recent stuff -- and Karen just wanted to be able to go through her son's photos, read his comments, and look at silly posts from his friends. It helped her feel closer to him. So, she figured out his password, got into his account, and emailed the company to let them know what was going on. But two hours later, she was kicked out of the website and Loren's password was changed.

Karen said, "I wanted full and unobstructed access, and they balked at that. It was heartbreaking. I was a parent grasping at straws to get anything I could get." After a two-year legal battle, Williams eventually got her son's account back, but she was only granted 10 months of access before the page was removed for good.

And so begins the legal -- and moral -- debate of digital estates.


I'm not ashamed to admit that after my mother died, I tried to get into her email. I knew I wouldn't find anything scandalous or telling in there, but for whatever reason I was seriously intrigued. It would have given me access to some of the everyday, mundane things she did and thought -- and, yes, that would have made me feel closer to her. I never figured out her password, and I'm sure if I went through enough rigmarole I could have, but now that I think about it: There shouldn't be any rigmarole. We should automatically have access to the passwords and accounts of our loved ones who have passed.

I'm not surprised that such a law isn't in place already, as, well, all of this technology is still relatively new, but hopefully cases like Williams' will open the doors for that to change. I mean, think about it: We get access to anything and everything else. Why not their Facebook account? That's where all the good stuff will be -- the photos, the insight as to how they were feeling on a particular day, etc. That's the stuff we want.  

Currently, lawmakers in at least two states are considering proposals that would require Facebook to give loved one's access to a deceased person's account -- hence, a digit estate. Hopefully, they'll go through, and other states will follow suit. This way, people like Karen Williams won't have to endure any more pain and frustration than they already are.

Do you think people should have digital estates?


Image via Sean MacEntee/Flickr

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