States seek to fill privacy law gaps

In this May 16, 2012 photo, the Facebook logo is displayed on an iPad in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
In this May 16, 2012 photo, the Facebook logo is displayed on an iPad in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — States are passing laws dealing with how to release information from online accounts to relatives when people die.

Google, Facebook and other companies have said a federal privacy law approved decades before digital storage became common prevents them from releasing electronic memories or records unless the account owner grants permission.

This year, Illinois was one of 19 states that passed similar laws to clarify what internet companies can release after someone dies and when information should remain inaccessible.

Even with the new laws, people must be proactive in specifying whom they want to inherit their accounts. At a minimum, companies will release basic information from a user unless they express otherwise, such as the person’s email contact list to help find friends or gather an inventory of a person’s assets.

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