NSW to update rules on digital asset access

THE WORLD of digital engagement is changing and so must the rules around how people use digital assets particularly when a person becomes incapacitated or dies.

The laws in place now were developed well before emails, blogs, social media and cryptocurrency were locked into our social fibre.

The NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman announced today that the NSW Law Reform Commission has been tasked with examining the laws that affect access to a person's social media accounts and other digital assets after they die or become unable to make decisions, and legislation is required to regulate digital assets access in these circumstances.

"When a loved one passes away, bureaucratic hurdles and legal uncertainty are the last thing families and friends feel like confronting, so we need clear and fair laws to deal with these 21st Century problems," Mr Speakman said.

"Some social networking sites allow for an account to be memorialised or handed over to an administrator after death, while others simply close the account.

"The Law Reform Commission will also look at whether additional privacy protections are needed in situations where a person hasn't made arrangements for anyone to take control of their social media or access their private emails."

What are your digital assets?

Making a list of what is stored electronically will give you some idea of what are your digital assets. The list may include Facebook, Instagram, icloud or similar stored photos and documents, music, movies, mobile phone, content on your computer and tablet which can include documents and emails, just for a start.  

Just how many of us make a list like this and then identify the rights of family and friends to access this information at any time, let alone record passwords to help someone deal with your affairs?

Mr Sparkman noted it can lead to a complex situation for family, friends and lawyers who are to untangle digital asset ownership issues.

The review will consider relevant NSW, Commonwealth and international laws, including those relating to intellectual property, privacy, contract, crime, estate administration, wills, succession and assisted-decision making. It will also scrutinise the policies and terms of service agreements of social media companies and other digital service providers.

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