Should the Facebook accounts belonging to the deceased be handed over to their relatives? According to the US, new legislation is already being debated.
Legislation in Oklahoma has already been passed giving relatives and friends the authority to manage social networking accounts belonging to the deceased person whose death occurs whilst resident of the state.
Following the case of Karen Williams attempting to take control of her son's Facebook account after his death back in 2005, a Nebraska bill will soon follow in the steps of the Oklahama law that would treat Facebook, Twitter as well as email accounts as digital assets that could be shut down or allowed to remain active so long as the representative of the deceased gives lawful permission.
Facebook's current guidelines state that all deaths must be reported via the use of an online form. Once the site has received notification of the death, the account of the deceased is automatically frozen, certain information removed with recognised Facebook friends permitted access to to the deceased user's profile and wall. The only drawback is the issue of privacy, with many family members not friends with the deceased on Facebook as a means of keeping their personal lives private - resulting in many family members denied access to the deceased user's account as they are not 'Facebook friends'.
However, laws are now being revised with Oklahoma the first to pass this amendment - with Nebraska and Oregon to follow suit.
Whilst there's a certain amount of legal barriers to contend with, ultimately it should be the issue of ethics that must be taken into consideration.