German federal court rules parents inherit deceased daughter's Facebook account

Xinhua Published: 2018-07-12 23:46:16
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The German Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled in a verdict on Thursday that the parents of a deceased girl would get access to her Facebook account.

Facebook logo is reflected in the eyes of a worried-looking woman with binary numbers.[File Photo: IC]

Facebook logo is reflected in the eyes of a worried-looking woman with binary numbers.[File Photo: IC]

The parents had fought to access the account since their daughter died at the age of 15 in 2012. The girl died after falling in front of a subway train and it is not clear if her death was self-inflicted, so her parents are hoping for clues on her passing. 

The parents claim to have known the Facebook password of the girl who had first registered to the network at the age of 14. But when they attempted to log into the account after their daughter´s death, they could not access the account. The account had been put into a memorializing state, where it stayed online for friends and family to write condolences.

The Facebook ruling was made at the third and final instance of the German legal system. The first ruling by a regional court in Berlin which would have granted access to the parents was overruled by the superior court of justice in Berlin. The earlier verdict in favor of Facebook was based on the right to privacy of other users who had communicated with the deceased girl.

Now, the highest German court reasoned on Thursday that there should be no difference between analogue and digital inheritance. The court argued that since diaries and private letters are inherited by the closest of kin, Facebook accounts should be treated the same way.

A Facebook spokesperson said on Thursday that balancing the wishes of family members and the protection of the privacy of third parties was one of the most difficult questions that the company had to face. "We feel for the family. At the same time, we need to ensure that the personal exchange between people on Facebook is protected". 

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