Court Says Facebook Can Block Parents From Deceased Teen’s Account

Court Says Facebook Can Block Parents From Deceased Teen’s Account

The page had already been made a "memorial" — blocking them from investigating her death

By Allee Manning Jun 01, 2017 at 10:42 AM ET

Two German parents looking to find clues about their daughter’s death, which they believe could have been a suicide, will have to look beyond Facebook. An appeals court in Germany ruled that Facebook’s refusal to let them access their daughter’s account will be upheld on Wednesday.

The case began shortly after the teen was reportedly struck and killed by a train at age 15 in 2012, when Facebook first refused to allow parents account access. Despite having the login information, which they say their daughter had shared with them before her death, they found themselves unable to log on since the page had been “memorialized.”

This action, which occurred when a Facebook friend of the deceased teen contacted the company regarding the account holder’s death, prohibits others from logging into it. Though the public parts of the page are still visible, the parents would not be able to see private messages she may have written.

Facebook has refused to share which of the daughter’s online contacts had reported her death, which the Guardian states would have required proof of her death.

Initially, a German court ruled that the Facebook account should go to the teens’ parents as they are the heirs of her estate. Facebook, however, appealed this ruling, claiming that access to these messages would violate the privacy of other users. This week, German courts found in favor of Facebook, citing a 120-year-old national telecommunications secrecy law. The judge who presided on this case determined that online chats were protected under this law, which had been abridged to encompass emails in 2009.

“At the same time we are sympathetic towards the family and respect their wish. We are making every effort to find a solution which helps the family at the same time as protecting the privacy of third parties who are also affected by this,” a Facebook spokesperson told German media.

The parents will have the option to appeal this ruling.


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