Parents Denied Access to Dead Daughter's Facebook
German court overturns prior ruling
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 1, 2017 8:07 AM CDT
In this Monday, June 4, 2012, file photo, a girl looks at Facebook on her computer in Palo Alto, Calif.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

(Newser) – When a 15-year-old girl died after being hit by a subway train in Berlin in 2012, her parents tried to access her Facebook account to determine whether it was an act of suicide. In 2015, a German court ruled in their favor, saying the girl's contract with Facebook passed to her parents when she died, according to the country's inheritance laws. But on Wednesday a Berlin appeals court overturned this ruling, reports Reuters, saying that the right to private telecommunications (not just of the daughter but of the people she was chatting with) trumps the right to inheritance. It adds that the contract between Facebook and the girl was terminated upon her death, so it could not be passed on posthumously.

The parents wanted to be able to read the girl's chat messages and posts to investigate whether she'd been the target of bullying, reports the BBC. Facebook declined their request, arguing for the privacy rights of the teen's contacts. The Guardian reports the unnamed girl had reportedly provided her mother with her password when she was 14, but her account was upon her death converted to a "memorialized" one, which blocks all login attempts and allows loved ones to post their goodbyes. Facebook wouldn't reveal which of her Facebook friends requested the account be memorialized; that person would have had to submit proof of her death. The parents could appeal this week's verdict. (This man was fined $4,000 for giving the thumbs-up on Facebook.)

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