What happens to Your Facebook account When You Die
when a German teenager was killed by a subway train five years ago, her parents grieved – they didn’t know if the 15-year-old from Berlin had deliberately entered the path of the oncoming train. Not so long ago, her mother turned to Facebook, hoping she might get some answers. Unfortunately, she was unable to gain access to her dead daughter’s Facebook account. her request, as her daughter’s legal heir, turned into a long court battle to understand her daughter’s mysterious death.
A Berlin superior court began proceedings to consider if her parents should be permitted to read their daughter’s Facebook messages after her passing. Although, both the parents had their child’s Facebook password, her profile was put into “in memoriam” mode after her death, locking her private Facebook message from being accessed by anyone.
In the original 2015 ruling, the judge declared that analog as well as digital possessions of a minor should be treated in the same fashion, in order to avoid a situation in which “letters and diaries were inheritable independent of their content, but emails and Facebook posts were not.”
Currently, Facebook offers only three options to address matters
of a user’s death: a full delete of the deceased user’s account; “Remembering” to make in memoriam posts but permanently block the account from any login; and “Legacy Contact” which is quite similar to the executor of a will, however, as minor cannot choose this option, it would be of no help to the grieving mother.
None of the above mentioned options would allow access to the information contained within the deceased daughter’s Facebook account. Observations concerning Facebook’s compliance with CIA, NSA and FBI requests for access to private data in cases of criminal behavior and acts of terrorism point to a double standard with regard to the mother’s request.