Dems: Who owns your digital data & communications?

March 6, 2016

A generation ago, mail was delivered to your house; photos were kept in an album; thoughts were recorded in a diary; documents were filed in a cabinet; and money was deposited at a bank. The Internet has changed all that.


Today, many Iowans keep their photos online; interact with friends and family through Facebook; and store data and documents on a server. If you die or become disabled, survivors may not be able to access these digital assets.


No Iowa law provides the administrator of an estate or a person with power of attorney to access your Facebook page, Gmail, Shutterfly account or Dropbox. If an active Internet user dies, survivors may not be able to get important family photos or shut down a Facebook account that serves as a painful reminder of the loss. The companies storing these assets on their servers are “custodians,” who often prohibit access to grieving families.


Senate File 2112 moves Iowa into the 21st century by giving Internet users the power to plan for their digital assets, just like they would for physical property. By providing procedures for allowing access to digital accounts, Iowans can decide how all of their assets will be handled when they can no longer do so themselves.

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