Friday, October 20, 2017
Court Holds Personal Representatives May Provide Lawful Consent Under the Stored Communications Act,
The Stored Communications Act prevents online service providers from violating a user’s privacy rights by releasing their electronic data without permission. While this serves to protect personal information, the law has also erected an unwieldy barrier for family members and fiduciaries seeking online information concerning those who have passed away. There are some exceptions to the act, but the language is permissive and allows the service providers the choice to release information. Another issue, the part of the statute outlining these exceptions fails to expressly state whether a personal representative of the decedent’s estate has the authority to stand in the shoes of the deceased in order to gain access to this information.
In Ajemian v. Yahoo!, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held “that the personal representatives may provide lawful consent on the decedent’s behalf to the release of the contents of the Yahoo email account.” Despite this ruling, the permissive language found in the statute remains. It does not require release of the information, but gives the service provider the option to release online information to the representative of a decedent’s estate.
See Jim Lamm, Court Holds Personal Representatives May Provide Lawful Consent Under the Stored Communications Act, Digital Passing, October 16, 2017.