ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Today, social media is a way of life, but what happens to your online pictures, messages and tweets when you die? In New Mexico, all of those digital files are in limbo and State Senator Peter Wirth is trying to change that.
“This bill is designed to give authority to individuals to deal with these digital assets if someone is incapacitated or dies,” said Wirth.
The bill, which passed its first committee unanimously this week, would allow family members or an appointed representative to tap into someone’s online life when they pass away.
“It’s really trying to address this new technology that we have all gotten so used to and comfortable with, but you don’t often think through all of the consequences,” said Wirth.
Consequences like one Virginia family had to deal with last year. The couple’s 15-year-old son, Ricky, committed suicide.
“Law enforcement officers recommended that we get access to his digital accounts his cell phone, his email and his Facebook account to see if there were any clues,” said Ricky’s dad Ricky Rash.
However, Facebook blocked the family from doing so citing privacy laws. Since Ricky’s death, Virgina has passed a law allowing parents account access if a child dies. In New Mexico, no law like that exists.
“I think it’s a wake up call for all of us,” said Wirth.
Wirth says he doesn’t want any other parents to have to go through what Ricky’s family did. He says his proposal would bring the law up to date.
“I think it’s an important tool in this changing world we are living in,” he said.
If the law were to pass it would take effect in 2016.
Delaware is the only state in the U.S. that has passed a law granting family members total control over a person’s digital accounts after death.