Delaware doesn’t think you’re entitled to online privacy once you’re dead

Sections: Communications, Email / IM, Smartphones

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Well, I’m not moving to Delaware anytime soon. As if the immense grief of my untimely passing wouldn’t shake my family members to the core, having access to all my online accounts (i.e. Facebook, Google, email) wouldn’t help. However, Delaware seems to think all your online accounts are more or less physical assets which should be distributed to your family members upon your death.


The state passed a law entitled the “Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act,” and even though “Fiduciary” is one of my favorite words because I have a nine-year-old’s sense of humor, I still completely disagree with the decree. Not only does the law grant access to your social networks and email, but your online banking information will also become available to your family members. That’s right, mom and dad, I have accrued a whole $10 in my savings account! Don’t spend it all in one place!

Even worse, it applies to all your digital devices. I’m talking desktops, laptops, smartphone, etc. I kid you not, I’m getting sick to my stomach just thinking about my parents having access to my smartphone and laptop. And I’m not even an evil villain! Imagine what Dr. Evil’s smartphone would look like!


I won’t pretend that I have some special insight into the human grieving process, but I can guarantee you that my dad’s grief would not be helped if he saw the amount of times I use the phrase “bitch ass” in my text history, or my iPhone photo gallery of penis-looking objects I find in my everyday life (there’s a lot). Even worse, my sister would move past me in the favorite child rankings. Ghost Hannah would be very displeased!

So, as you can imagine I have many hesitations that I would like to voice to Governor Jack Markell, the Governor who signed the law last week. Luckily, there might be a loophole. Facebook forbids users from sharing their password without written permission from the company.

Listen, if this is something family members really want access to, I completely understand. I just think upon signing up for these accounts, we should have to willingly enter into an agreement which states our online accounts are fair game once we kick the bucket. After all, I don’t think my parents can handle my internet history. So what, I read erotic Star Wars fan fiction! Sue me!

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  • Jeffrey R. Gottlieb

    The terms of the law specifically allows you to “provide otherwise” in your estate planning documents. So, you can very easily and effectively restrict or eliminate access to your digital accounts and data if that is your preference. Delaware is the first state, but almost certainly will not be the last, to adopt this policy.