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Man fighting to access late wife's Facebook

Updated: Wednesday, April 2 2014, 02:22 PM EDT

Ontario, N.Y. – Charles Wachal is trying to change how Facebook handles the user accounts of those who die.

His wife recently passed away from a genetic disorder and prior to her death she told him about a video she left for him to be played after her passing.

After she passed away, Wachal found out his wife’s Facebook page was already “locked” and “memorialized” by Facebook.

It’s a Facebook policy to lock the accounts of its users who have passed away to protect the privacy of the accounts.

According to Facebook, no videos were left on Wachal’s wife’s Facebook page, but Wachal still wants to try and change the company’s policy for users who pass away.

Rochester technology and intellectual property lawyer Jeremy Oczek said it’s becoming more common for relatives to want access to social media pages, email and cloud computer accounts of deceased loved-ones.

“It’s not a perfect analogy but it’s probably where the law was many years ago dealing with end of life issues,” said Oczek, of Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC. “But a lot of these companies try and protect user privacy and user data, and they also try to comply with existing federal laws.

Oczek said in terms of social media, the laws are lagging behind the prevalence of technology, but that some companies like Google are stepping in to fill that gap.

“Individual users can adjust their settings to deal with what happens if their account becomes inactive once they’re deceased,” he said, referencing Google’s Inactive Account Manager. “It lets you decide what to do with your accounts if you die and who gets access.”

Oczek added that he believes slowly but surely on a state and federal level, laws will change to better clarify what happens to social media accounts after users die.

Wachal has created a petition urging Facebook to change its policy.

A Facebook spokeswoman explained that Facebook memorializes a person’s page after they are informed of their death and verify the death with, “documentation such as an obituary or news article.”

Facebook has since put Charles in touch with someone at Apple to see if the videos may have been stored on one of the company’s iCloud servers.

Man fighting to access late wife's Facebook

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