The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

March 3, 2013

In death, Facebook photos could fade away

BEAVERTON, Ore. — A grieving Oregon mother who battled Facebook for full access to her deceased son’s account has been pushing for years for something that would prevent others from losing photos, messages and other memories — as she did.

“Everybody’s going to face this kind of a situation at some point in their lives,” says Karen Williams, whose 22-year-old son died in a 2005 motorcycle accident.

The Oregon Legislature responded and took up the cause recently with a proposal that would have made it easier for loved ones to access the “digital assets” of the deceased, only to be turned back by pressure from the tech industry, which argued that both a 1986 federal law and voluntary terms of service agreements prohibit companies from sharing a person’s information — even if such a request were included in a last will and testament.

Lobbyists agree the Stored Communications Act is woefully out of date but say that until it’s changed, laws passed at the state level could be unconstitutional.

“Everybody wants to do the right thing, but the hard legal reality is the federal communications act,” said Jim Hawley, a vice president at TechNet, an industry group that represents companies such as Google and Microsoft.

Oregon lawmakers moved ahead anyway with a proposal that would have given “digital assets” — everything from photos and messages stored online to intellectual property and banking information — the same treatment as material property for estate purposes.

“I think it’s time for us to really look at what we can do now,” said Democratic Sen. Floyd Prozanski after hearing Williams testify about her loss last month.

Two weeks later, however, language in the bill that would have covered social media accounts, from Facebook to Flikr, was stripped as tech lobbyists said the federal law and company privacy policies trumped anything that the bill would have included.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World
  • Organizers confident of safe race

    BOSTON — The arrest of a man with a rice cooker in his backpack near the Boston Marathon finish line led police to step up patrols Wednesday, while organizers sought to assure the city and runners of a safe race next week....

    April 17, 2014

  • Ukraine bares teeth against eastern uprising

    KRAMATORSK, Ukraine — In the first Ukrainian military action against a pro-Russian uprising in the east, government forces repelled an attack Tuesday by about 30 gunmen at an airport, beginning what the president called an “anti-terrorist ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Supremacist faces murder charges

    OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The white supremacist charged in shootings that left three people dead at two Jewish community sites in suburban Kansas City made his first court appearance Tuesday....

    April 16, 2014

  • Iran cuts nuclear weapons ability

    VIENNA — The United Nations will release a report this week certifying that Iran’s ability to make a nuclear bomb has been greatly reduced because it has diluted half of its material that can be turned most quickly into weapons-grade ...

    April 16, 2014

  • People with old Social Security debts get reprieve

    WASHINGTON — People with old Social Security debts are getting a reprieve — for now....

    April 16, 2014

  • Solemn tributes mark anniversary

    BOSTON — Survivors, first responders and family members of those killed in the Boston Marathon bombing marked the anniversary Tuesday with tributes that combined sorrow over the loss of innocent victims with pride over the city’s ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Questions linger year after bombs

    BOSTON — A surveillance video shows a man prosecutors say is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev placing a bomb near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, just yards from where an 8-year-old boy was killed when it exploded....

    April 15, 2014

  • Feds abruptly end roundup

    Federal land managers abruptly ended the roundup of cattle on public land in southern Nevada owned by a rancher who has refused to recognize their authority, citing a “serious concern” for the safety of employees and the public....

    April 13, 2014

  • Calif. crash probe includes limiting bus fires

    ORLAND, Calif. — A new twist was added to the investigation of a crash involving a tour bus and FedEx tractor-trailer that killed 10 people when a couple said the big rig already was on fire when it careened across a median and sideswiped ...

    April 13, 2014

  • Disappointment, forgiveness mix in La.

    MONROE, La. — To Louisiana voters accustomed to tawdry scandals involving elected officials, disappointment with an eye toward forgiveness is the prevailing sentiment about their new congressman, caught on video embracing an aide married ...

    April 13, 2014