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Your Family May Be Able To Access Your DMs When You Die

Your Family May Be Able To Access Your DMs When You Die

It's a question that's enough to bring people of our generation out into cold sweats: who will be able to see our emails and DMs when we die?

I'd but money on most of us having expressed private thoughts that'd be best kept out of the public domain if we suddenly snuff it.

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However, a recent court ruling in the US, from a case dating back to 2009, looks like it will make that more likely. Yep, even if you live in the UK.

Early last week, an appeals court in Massachusetts ruled that the siblings of a deceased man, Robert Ajemian, could lawfully access his Yahoo emails to try to find out what he wanted to happen to his estate.

Yahoo initially refused access eight years ago, citing privacy laws and their own terms of use, but a panel has now decided that Yahoo should finally release the emails to Ajemian's family.

It's a decision which may have consequences for the rest of us.

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Currently in the UK, big tech companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter all own the rights to the information and content you give them, making them the legal owners of whatever you upload rather than your spouse or relatives.

In Facebook's case, even if you've trusted someone enough while you were alive to specify them as your 'legacy contact', making them responsible for your Facebook page, they will be unable to see your private messages. Phew.

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What Happens To All Of Your Social Media Accounts When You Die?
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What Happens To All Of Your Social Media Accounts When You Die?

And when it comes to Twitter, your legal reps or relatives can only ask to have an account deactivated rather than access messages you sent.

Like Facebook, Google's service allows you to set up an 'inactive account manager' to specify who should have access to your account should the worst happen.

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However, for those who are too forgetful to do this (that is, most of us), Google say that any decision to satisfy a request for information will only be made after 'careful review'.

"In certain circumstances we may provide content from a deceased user's account," Google's support page says. "In all of these cases, our primary responsibility is to keep people's information secure, safe and private."

While this all sounds reassuring, it's made more complex by the fact that your information might be stored in a different country to the one you live in.

That means that just because someone has died in the UK, doesn't necessarily mean English law will apply when it comes to handling their information - and if it isn't clear which country's law applies, it becomes a matter for each digital service to decide. Like Yahoo did.

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So while that ruling in the US seems small, it may well affect us here over the pond. Erm, you might want to delete that secret thread you use to slag off your family now.

Words: Chris Ogden

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: Death, Google, Social Media, Facebook, Twitter, Community, Interesting, USA

Stewart Perrie

Stewart Perrie is a Trending Journalist at LADbible. His first job was as a newsreader and journalist at the award winning Sydney radio station, Macquarie Radio. He was solely responsible for the content broadcast on multiple stations across Australia when the MH17, Germanwings and AirAsia disasters unfolded. Stewart has covered the conflict in Syria for LADbible, interviewing a doctor on the front line, and has contributed to the hugely successful UOKM8 campaign.