It is almost irony.
A few months ago, Facebook was under so much scrutiny because of the apparent privacy and data breach. Today it is in the news for firmly standing its ground denying access to private messages. This is going against the court orders.
Last week, Germany’s Federal court has favored parents of a girl who passed away in an unfortunate accident. She was struck by a train back in 2012. They have been fighting for the access to the girl’s Facebook messages because they wanted to know if she had been suicidal or been suffering from any other mental illness that could have led to her death.
But her page had already memorialized. This means that now the access to the account’s data is next to impossible. In a legal battle that has been going on for five years, Germany’s court had passed its verdict, asking Facebook to grant access to the parents. It also stated that although they recognize the privacy policies of Facebook and how personal the data could be. However, it is still information that can be inherited upon a person’s passing away. Much like personal letters and diaries.
What did Facebook say?
Facebook firmly disagreed with the court, stating that it is their responsibility to protect an individual’s privacy. Therefore, it cannot disclose the data that can give access to the account. They have issued a statement saying although they empathize with the family, it goes completely opposite to their firm policies.
Since the battle is still going on, there is no sure way to see what Facebook will do to oppose the court’s orders.
How you can choose your legacy contact?
What Zuckerberg and team follow is commendable here. Facebook lets you trust your account with a friend or a family member to delete your account, in case you pass away. Else, it memorializes your page (this makes all the data of the page inaccessible) and it shows as ‘remembering’. In both cases, there is no chance for any privacy issue at all. Since you have the freedom to choose your legacy contact, you are willing to let the person see your data – such as posts, messages, friends, and photos. In the other case, memorializing will only keep the data you’ve chosen to be publicly visible to your friends and family.
In case of granting access to the family of the deceased person, there is no consent of the person to such sharing of data, even if is with the family. It is also mentioned clearly in the policies on Facebook about the subject. Facebook had also been in the news when it deleted the page of a musician, Mirza Krupalija. After six months of his death, Facebook deletes his page without any explanation at all. When a case was charged against them in the matter, a U.K judge had asked for the explanation and details of the user who’d requested for the page’s deletion.
Facebook responded that it has orders for the deletion but flatly refused to give the person’s details. Further probing by Krupalija’s partner Azra Sabados didn’t yield any appropriate response from the company.