Should Justin Ellsworth's Parents Have Been Given Access to His Email?

807 Words Oct 25th, 2010 4 Pages
Should Justin Ellsworth’s Parents have been given access to his email?
Every day, thousands and millions of people flood the world with e-mails. Most youngsters keep online journals and share photos online with friends and family. And each day, many of us die. What happens to the contents of a deceased’s laptops and e-mail accounts? Would a deceased want his or her family to read the e-mails? What would happen if a deceased stored work files on his or her computer that belonged to his or her employer? Could a deceased assign a representative to go through the computer and clean out any files the deceased didn’t want anyone to see? In general, private letters that are used for communication are seen as personal property. When one dies,
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Justin’s parents wanted possession of his e-mail account because "I want to be able to remember him in his words. I know he thought he was doing what he needed to do. I want to have that for the future," John said. "It's the last thing I have of my son.”(Chambers 2004) According to Justin’s father John Ellsworth, he and Justin had agreed to keep a copy of their e-mail correspondence and together make a scrapbook when Justin came home. This would be a way for John to complete that project for his son. (Bebow 2004) Justin had his e-mail account through Yahoos website. Yahoo specifically has an agreement with its members that state “You agree that your Yahoo! Account is non-transferable and any rights to your Yahoo! I.D. or contents within your account terminate upon your death. Upon receipt of a death certificate, your account may be terminated and all contents therein permanently deleted.”(Yahoo 2010)
Yahoo! refused to hand the content of Justin’s account over to his father, citing internal privacy policies and the contract (Terms of Service) that the marine had with Yahoo! under the section of “No Right of Survivorship and Non-Transferability”. (Yahoo 2010) Justin had an agreement with Yahoo and made no arrangements to authorize Yahoo to release his account to anyone.
The general public is very concerned about this issue. The Ellsworth case raises a very important question: Should we treat email as

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