When Privacy Policies Might be Too Strict

Lora Bentley

Online privacy is a huge hot button today, for consumers and Internet service providers alike. Facebook's privacy policies have been under the microscope for some time. When it comes to health information, some organizations have devoted significant resources to determining which personal health records providers are best at protecting the information and ensuring that the patient maintains control of it.


But what happens when it's necessary for a third party to access your online information? Several companies already have exceptions in place to aid in the investigation or prosecution of a crime. Do they also have procedures in place that will give users' representatives control of their online accounts in the event of the users' unexpected death or incapacity? According to a recent Washington Post story, a new category of startups is banking that they do not.


Sites like Legacy Locker, VitalLock and Entrustet provide a variety of services, including maintaining a list of passwords and online accounts for a select few friends or relatives who agree to administer one's "digital assets" after his or her death or incapacity. Such services prevent family members from having to jump through various and sundry hoops before an online service provider will agree to close or grant them access to a user's online accounts.


It's an interesting development, indeed. Not only for those who provide online services, but also for attorneys who draft wills and plan estates, as well as those who administer them. I'll keep an eye on it.

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