What’s so iAWFUL?

Some states are moving to let an appointed executor counter your express wishes for how your online accounts are handled when you die.   

(MA H 1314/S 702), (MD SB 29), (ND HB 1455), (NE LB 37), (NH HB 116), (NJ A 2943S 2077), (NV SB 131), (NY AB 823), (OR SB 54)

Still on the list from the last iAWFUL, state legislators have introduced even more bills to control your digital afterlife, sometimes letting the state override your express wishes.

Online services are experimenting with new ways to give you control over what happens to your online accounts when you die.  Some allow the auto-deletion of your account.  Others “memorialize” your page, allowing previously approved friends to post remembrances.  And some services allow you to designate a person to take control of your account

However, trust and estate attorneys and family of some deceased internet users are pressing for new laws that would deny you the ability to make these choices for yourself and instead allow a court appointed representative to make the choices for you.

Moreover, these state bills can put online services at odds with federal law.  For example, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) forbids an online service from giving someone access to your communications unless authorized.  But some of these state bills do not grant the necessary authorization to allow online services to comply with ECPA.  This puts service providers in a pincer between violating federal or state laws.

In the end, it should be you, not a court appointed executor, who controls your digital afterlife.


At NetChoice we worked with Virgina legislators to balance the interests of families seeking access to minors’ accounts who passed without making any express choices about how to dispose of the online accounts with limitations of federal laws and existing copyright and license agreements (HB 1752).

We are also working with the Uniform Law Commission to create a model act that respects the wishes of the deceased and allows personal representatives to properly manage the estate, while letting online services offer new privacy plans that fully comply with federal law.



Maryland SB 29

Nebraska LB 37

New Hampshire HB 116

North Dakota HB 1455

Virginia SB 913

Virginia HB 1584


Are You Ready for Your Online After-Life?


Omaha.com  – “Laws, guidelines few when dealing with online life of the deceased”


The iAWFUL reflects the editorial views of the Executive Director of NetChoice and does not necessarily reflect the views of all NetChoice members.

Back to iAwful list