New bill proposed to secure digital assets of next of kin

The DUP has proposed a new bill to create a law where the default position would be that the next of kin of a deceased or incapacitated person would automatically have access to content from digital platforms held in their name.

The Digital Devices (Access for Next of Kin) Bill was introduced in Parliament by North Antrim MP Ian Paisley.

Speaking afterwards, he said: “Every day we create a bigger and bigger digital footprint of our personal and financial lives online. Often we don’t consider what happens to that information when someone dies unexpectedly.

“For many people, digital assets are primarily of sentimental value. Photos and videos stored on a device or social media account. But they’re not just sentimental records. Music and games are purchased online or cryptocurrency, loyalty points and other assets have monetary value, but only if the next of kin has access to them.

“Today, approximately £25 billion of our UK assets are held in secure online cloud storage solutions and other accounts.

“Many people feel like they own their online content. This is not the case. Many forget to provide access to content in their wills or share passwords and access codes. Many, of course, do not have a will, especially young people. Much valuable material, sentimental and otherwise, may be lost forever.

“In the UK, there is no legislation on the rights of access to a person’s digital device or account. Here we are at the mercy of the mechanisms put in place by technology companies to attempt to gain limited access.Each of them have different practices and policies.create an online maze to navigate.

“This bill would remove unnecessary barriers and unlock happy memories for many, and access to precious photos, videos, keepsakes and other records that would be available to next of kin at the most difficult time for many families.

“We need to bring our laws into line with the new digital century and ensure that families aren’t blocked by tech companies from accessing their loved one’s equipment.”

Sylvia B. Polson