German judges were to rule yesterday on Facebook users’ “digital legacy,” or the fate of their private data after they die, in a case pitting the Silicon Valley giant against the grieving parents of a teenage girl.
After the 15-year-old was killed by an underground train in 2012, her parents asked Facebook for access to her data and message history, hoping they would shed light on whether the death was an accident or a deliberate suicide.
After the firm refused, the couple in 2015 won a first court case to gain access to the data, only for a Berlin Appeals Court to overturn the ruling.
Now the question has reached Germany’s highest court, the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe.
As well as seeking emotional closure, the parents hope the information contained in their daughter’s account will clear up whether the train driver is owed compensation, as he might be if her death was a suicide, court documents showed.
The parents say that the contents of their daughter’s Facebook are legally identical to a private diary or letters that might be returned to loved ones after a person’s death.
Judges at the court of first instance in Berlin agreed that the contract between the deceased and Facebook was covered by inheritance law, including the digital content created on the account.
In any case, parents of a minor have a right to know when and with whom their daughter had communicated, they added.
However, the Berlin Appeals Court in its decision last year backed Facebook’s argument that “privacy in telecommunications is guaranteed by Germany’s Basic Law [constitution].”
The judges also backed the firm’s belief that people who exchanged messages with the daughter were also entitled to protection of their private digital communications.
Only two options are offered to relatives when a Facebook user dies: The first is turning their page into a “memorial” allowing people to post their condolences, but with no access to the deceased’s private messages, while the other allows relatives to ask Facebook to delete the dead person’s account.
Germany is far from the first nation to see moral and legal battles over how to deal with digital data whose owners have passed away.
Apple in 2016 resisted attempts by the FBI to force it to unlock an iPhone belonging to one of two people who had carried out a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015.
However, the company was more open to an Italian father who in 2016 asked it to unlock a phone belonging to his child who had died of cancer, allowing him to recover memories and photographs.
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,
‘SHOW RESTRAINT’: Kismayo elder Adan Jama said that dead bodies were strewn in the battle zone and civilians were fleeing as the fighting had affected several villages At least 20 people have been killed in southern Somalia in clashes between militia from rival clans fighting over land, officials and witnesses said on Thursday. Tensions between fighters from the Owrmale and Majerten clans, which live about 30km outside the southern city of Kismayo, have been rising in recent weeks. “The fighting intensified today, and 20 people from the two sides were killed and dozen others including civilians wounded. This is a horrible situation that needs to be stopped,” local government official Abdikarin Mohamed said. “The dead bodies are strewn in the battle zone and civilians are fleeing as the fighting has