Email is now the most common method of staying in touch with relatives and loved ones. It is an instant form of communication that is covered by a set rules that protects the account user’s privacy. In order to get an email account, the courier service promises to deliver the highest level of privacy for its user. The user is protected against various forms of fraud and invasions of privacy. This is usually done by giving the account holder a specific password that acts as the unlock code to the mailbox, or inbox in Internet lingo, of the person subscribed to the service.
The main question now is “Does the privacy clause of a user contract expire upon the demise of the user? ” Such is the case of the emails of deceased US Marine Justine Ellsworth who died while in the line of duty in Iraq. It is understood that all his belongings now go to his next of kin, but should this include his private emails that, unlike regular postal mail, has a binding privacy agreement with the deceased? One reason that more people these days opt to send letters via email is because of the higher sense of privacy and security one gets from the Privacy Clause of the service provider.
Unlike a personal letter that can be read by anyone who gets his hands on the now opened envelope, an email is readable only by a person who has the passwords to the email server. This is where the higher sense of privacy comes in. Therefore, turning over the access codes to an email account to someone other than the account holder is to be considered a violation of privacy. Just because a person dies does not mean that he has given up his right to privacy. Thoughts and feelings are private matters that each person chooses to share with a select few.
Reading anybody’s email, most specially a dead person’s private emails, is the highest form if disrespect and greatly devalues the respect accorded to the deceased. Prying eyes never see or read anything nice in things other people wrote. That is a well-known fact. The ruling of the courts granting Mr. Ellsworth access to his son has posed a grave threat to email privacy as we know it. This landmark case has caused users to rethink the privacy agreements since it seems that the agreements carry no weight with the courts.
I join majority of the people who believe that the courts overstepped the boundaries of privacy when they ordered Yahoo! to share the emails of Justin with his parents without is consent. Justin is no longer around to defend himself and the contents of any emails in his accounts may or may not have a profound effect on his family, friends, associates, etc. There are just some things that are better left alone, unread, and unsaid. Emails are one of those things.
In a survey taken by the Christian Science Monitor, the results showed the following: Should next-of-kin be allowed to access e-mail of their loved ones? No, if the family was not privy to the original e-mail, they should not see them 50. 93 % (247) Yes, e-mail is like a paper correspondence, and should be passed on like letters or diaries. 49. 07 % (238) Total votes: 485. Related story: Who gets to see the e-mail of the deceased? Majorities of people want privacy in their email correspondences.
For most of the common people who use emails on a daily basis either for work or keeping in touch with loved ones, it is simply a matter of keeping ones thoughts private and confidential. Enough private information is gathered about a person over the Internet using spyware programs so that some companies actually think they know a person. The same can be said for a relative or friend who gains access to a private email account. You may know the person who wrote the emails but, you don’t know how he was feeling at the time emails were written.
In print everything can be misconstrued and have far reaching consequences. Sadly, the owner of the account, being deceased, may no longer stand up and defend or explain himself should any complications due to the unauthorized reading of his emails arise. Then, there is the legal implication of the matter. The executive director of the Cyberlaw Center at Bentley College, Gerald Ferrera indicated that: I would hope that the Yahoo! position here would become a trade practice – that e-mail would only be released if a judge approved it. I beg to disagree with this statement.
An email, unless to be considered as evidence in litigation matter, should never be accessed by anyone other than the account holder. It is said that the military email accounts of high officials are automatically purged upon the demise of the officer in case there are any security email correspondence in the server. The same respect and security should have been accorded to US Marine Justin Ellsworth. His private thoughts and correspondence with people other than his parents should have remained unknown to them. Anything he wanted to let his parents know about, he most likely let them know.
There was a part of their son’s life that should have remained private because he did not want them to access that space he called his own. It was contained in that email account and Yahoo was forced to violate the trust he gave the company as the caretakers of his messages. So, should Justin’s parent shave been given access to his email account? I am one of the people who believe they should not have gotten the access. The courts thought otherwise though. Emails have become an entirely different field; they both exist and yet do not exist at the same time.
They are correspondence, yet they are confidential personal property. Who gets to read it, seems to be a matter for the courts to decide if you don’t specify a safeguard in your will.
Jim Hu. CNET NEWS. com. Yahoo Denies Family Access to Dead marines Email. November 25, 2006 from http://news. zdnet. com/2100-9588_22-5500057. html The Christian Science Monitor. Should next-of-kin be allowed to access e-mail of their loved ones?. November 24, 2006. From http://www. csmonitor. com/poll/index. php? poll_id=216