Online platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn are quite rightly protective of the data individuals choose to upload to their profiles. Most people would agree that such platforms should not permit a third party to control such information without a very compelling reason. However, there is one such compelling reason that needs to be addressed and that is once a person has passed away. It can be notoriously difficult to gain access to the online accounts of the deceased, whether to add the intellectual property to the estate or whether simply to delete the accounts. In Spain the Congressional Justice Commission has unanimously approved a law whereby the online digital testament and information of an individual can be managed or deleted by their heirs, providing that the deceased had not previously expressly forbidden such an action. The new law will enable the heirs to handle bank accounts or social media networks and any other similar platforms or services.
The measure has been included in the draft for the Organic Law for the Protection of Personal Data, which is being processed in the lower house. It was decided to include this proviso in the draft law as a specific provision relating particularly to this situation. The provision also includes the right of persons linked to the deceased for family or de facto reasons, in addition to their heirs, to also be able to access the deceased's digital contents and to deal with the destination or deletion of the online information as they see fit.
The only exception is, as previously mentioned, is when the deceased has expressly prohibited it. This prohibition will not affect the right of the heirs to access the contents that could be part of the inheritance. In this case, an executor or those persons or institutions to which the deceased had expressly designated to do so may request access to the content in order to comply with their instructions and may decide how to proceed.
With regard to the autonomous communities within Spain that retain the right to manage their own civil and special rights, they can make their own provisions within the scope of the application. Catalan has already done so. It is expected that the proposed new law will be approved by the end of the year.
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