I spent much of the last year researching born-digital materials, so I am predisposed to an interest in anything related to electronic records.  One of the biggest questions yet to be answered is what will happen to all of these records?  The Library of Congress is archiving Twitter, so that one has been decided.  Other social media providers such as Facebook are more complicated.  A story published in March tells of how Facebook cut off the access of a mother to her deceased son’s page — to which she had the password! — but the broader issue is what can and should happen to people’s digital possessions.  Although some state legislatures are trying to consider how to handle digital assets as a part of someone’s estate, a 1986 federal law (Stored Communications Act) along with the service agreements of online companies are making this very difficult to address.  Where I inherited books from my grandparents, bequeathing iTunes songs or Kindle books is a very different proposition.  And then what if someone has their “lifetime library” in the cloud?  There are a lot of practical and legal issues that need to be resolved.  A blog entitled “Digital Passing” provides information about estate planning for passwords and digital property, so if these issues interest you, you can follow up there.  There are also a number of manual archiving methods within social media platforms along with fee-based services that can work across various platforms — this article from Entrepreneur reviews several of these companies.  For an example of how a state archive is handling social media, see the North Carolina State Government Web Site Archives & Access Program.

Update: The BBC recently published an article on this topic entitled “Death in the digital age: Are you prepared?