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Legislators seek to solve dilemma of who owns your digital data


This news story was published on March 8, 2016.
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computer dataDES MOINES – Iowa lawmakers are looking to solve a technical issue: What happens to your digital data when you die?

We’ve all had the unfortunate experience of a friend or a loved one who passes away, but what happens to all their data that is stored online, for example, a Facebook page? How does that get shut down? How does family access their precious photos and other data?

Iowa lawmakers say there is no law here that provides the administrator of an estate or a person with power of attorney to access your Facebook page, Gmail, Shutterfly account or Dropbox. If an active Internet user dies, survivors may not be able to get important family photos or shut down a Facebook account that serves as a painful reminder of the loss. The companies storing these assets on their servers are “custodians,” who often prohibit access to grieving families.

This session, Iowa lawmakers are seeking to make this process easier for survivors of the deceased.

Senate File 2112 moves Iowa into the 21st century by giving Internet users the power to plan for their digital assets, just like they would for physical property. By providing procedures for allowing access to digital accounts, Iowans can decide how all of their assets will be handled when they can no longer do so themselves.

This bill passed the Senate in February and next goes to the House.

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