Facebook After Death: Questions Arise Over Ownership Postmortem

Several lawmakers are currently considering measures that deal with ownership of a Facebook page, and other internet profiles, after a person dies.

New Hampshire State Rep. Peter Sullivan recently introduced legislation that would grant control of any internet profile such as Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, to the executor of an estate. However, skeptics are addressing possible enforcement issues given the nature of social networks and changes in privacy rules.

Sullivan revealed during an interview with WMUR that he came up with the new legislation after hearing about a girl who committed suicide because she was being bullied on Facebook.

He added the bullying continued after her death when tormenters continued to post negative comments on her Facebook page. Her parents were not able to take the page down or delete the posts because they were not authorized to access the account.

"This would give the families a sense of closure, a sense of peace. It would help prevent this form of bullying that continues even after someone dies and nobody is really harmed by it. The family wasn't able to do anything; they didn't have access to her account … They couldn't go in and delete those comments, and they couldn't take the page down completely," Sullivan told WMUR.

However, skeptics argue that the main issue with his bill will be enforcement, given the constantly changing nature of internet profiles and social media applications.

With changes in terms of services, as well as changes in social network privacy rules, ownership disputes will continue until there is one encompassing law for all social media content.

"Facebook and other online providers have changed their privacy policies to keep up with the times, but we still see a lot of flux within different sites like Facebook, Flickr, or Google, for example," Ryan Kiesel, an Oklahoma lawmaker, told ABC.

"The federal government should pass uniform laws to govern all digital assets because it is quite difficult for an estate to have to navigate endless numbers of digital policies postmortem," he added.