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The Hill – Tech seeks life after death for accounts

The Hill – Tech seeks life after death for accounts

Carl Szabo, policy counsel at NetChoice, said tech companies would be reassured by an ECPA update clarifying that the companies wouldn’t be violating the federal law if they release a deceased user’s information to the person carrying out that user’s will.

“That would address the legal concerns we have,” he said.

Szabo’s group includes Google, Facebook, AOL and Yahoo. It was also a signatory on the Delaware letter.

He also encouraged lawmakers to give the tech industry more time to work out solutions to the questions about what happens after a user dies.

Szabo also pointed to tech companies’ efforts to give users choices regarding what happens to their accounts after they die.

“We are creating tools to give users choice,” he said, citing features offered by Facebook and Google.

Through its “Memorialize” feature, Facebook lets family and friends of a person who has verifiably passed away to request an account be frozen.

With Google, users can automatically give trusted contacts portions of their data if their account has been inactive for a specified period of time. Users can also request that all or parts of their data across Google’s services be automatically deleted.

Szabo pushed back on legislative proposals, especially at the state level, that could force a company to choose between obeying the law and going against a user’s privacy preferences.

Some users expect their digital accounts to die with them, based on an Internet company’s privacy policy, he said.

“Users read the privacy policy as a promise,” he said. “If we make them a promise, we want to be true to that promise.”