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This week from Charleston

By Staff | May 15, 2015

Last week, I attended a conference on cyber security sponsored by the Council on State Governments in St. Louis. CSG hosts these policy academies and invites legislators who have a special interest in a particular topic. Fellow legislators came from across the US and from as far away as Alaska. We had two days of intense briefings on cyber security issues in government including the impact on citizens/consumers. While there was a lot of focus on protecting government data, including sensitive citizen data, we also explored issues regarding private “data breaches” and how state and federal law is inconsistent on notification of consumers.

A staff member from the National Security Council also addressed how executive policy is changing and will continue to change to make our confidential and sensitive information even more secure. There was a lot of discussion about foreign sponsored hacking into government systems. I am concerned that in West Virginia, our county and municipal systems are vulnerable to attacks in ways that our State infrastructure is not. This is something that we need to explore.

We toured the world operations headquarters for MasterCard and saw how they keep a secure environment dealing with millions of transactions a day on a global scale. It was truly impressive. One of the reasons for the credit card briefing is the upcoming switch to “chip” cards. Many people may already be using a chip credit card today. These cards have a visible chip embedded in the card. This chip will ultimately replace the magnetic strip on every card and make transactions much more secure. Eventually, the United States will catch up to most of the rest of the world and use “chip and pin” technology that will require a pin, like we use now for an ATM, to work with the chip. Look for new card readers to deploy in the next year across the US.

One focus was on digital “afterlife.” What happens to someone’s online presence after death? Right now, unless specific provisions are made in a will, no one can access personal email or social media without a password. Some sites, including Facebook, now have a feature that allows one to to designate a “legacy contact” and plan how Facebook handles death. One option is to allow the legacy contact to make a posting that alerts friends to a funeral, but does not give the contact access to messages and hidden parts of Facebook. Some states have addressed this problem, but the most popular solution seems to conflict with federal privacy law.

Next year, I will introduce a bill to address this in West Virginia. The nature of our communications and interactions is changing every day, and the law is not keeping up. Should the executor or administrator of an estate have full access to all social media accounts? text messages? email? These questions are not easy to answer with a default one-size-fits-all law. To be sure individuals may be specific in their wills, but the vast majority of wills do not deal with these issues.