Florida bill allows designation of custodians for online accounts

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Sammy Zimmermanns, Pixabay via MGN

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Floridians would be able to designate a custodian to access and manage their social media, email and online financial accounts when they die or become incapacitated, under a bill passed by the state Legislature.

The bill is intended to solve what the sponsor, Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, said were problems caused for many people when they lose the ability to access their online accounts, placing heirloom photos, financial assets and other online data in jeopardy. Florida law currently doesn’t allow access to online accounts for a person with a power of attorney, a guardian of a minor or incapacitated person or an estate representative.

The state House passed the bill on a unanimous vote Wednesday, sending it to Gov. Rick Scott.

A similar bill failed last year in the face of opposition from Internet service providers who feared it would require them to violate their guarantees of privacy to their customers. Those companies backed a revised version of the bill this year.

The new version addresses that concern by requiring that the owners of online accounts explicitly agree, either in a will or in an online tool provided by an Internet company, to allow a custodian to take over the accounts in the case of death or incapacity, said Carl Szabo of NetChoice, a trade association of Internet companies including AOL, Facebook and Google.

Hukill said the bill hasn’t lost any protections for the customer, but has become clearer.

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