Facebook ruling underlines importance of digital inheritance planning

On Thursday July 12, The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in Karlsruhe ruled in favor of granting the parents of a deceased 15-year old girl access to her Facebook account. Facebook must now provide access to the account, which has been locked for more than five years. The case underlines how important the planning of digital inheritance has become in today’s world.

In 2012, a young girl was hit by an underground train and died as a consequence. Since then, her parents have sought to gain access to her Facebook account hoping to find out more about the circumstance of her death and achieve emotional closure.

Due to privacy protection concerns, Facebook first refused to grant the account access. In 2015, a lower German court ruled in favor of the parents. However, an appeals court in Berlin ruled for Facebook two years later basing its decision on privacy protection concerns. As the BGH presented the final verdict, judge Ulrich Hermann referred to the practice of handing over letters and private journals to legal heirs as an important argument. The court argued digital content should not be treated differently. The ruling is of great importance as it will be used as a guidelines for future cases of this nature.

90 online accounts per person

The Facebook case clearly illustrates that the issue of digital inheritance remains a challenge for digital service providers and their users alike. According to a 2015-study, the average user had 90 online accounts with an up-going tendency. Many popular social media and email providers offer some type of digital inheritance support. However, the policies and options to pass on data vary considerably. To get overview of the digital inheritance policies of some of the most popular online services, refer to this article.

Get an overview of data inheritance policies here

Data inheritance function as an alternative solution

Since the very founding days, DSwiss – the company behind SecureSafe – has seen data inheritance as an essential challenge and sought to provide a tool to manage it. Every SecureSafe thus account comes with the so-called data inheritance feature. The feature enables any account owner to define beneficiaries, who are to receive selected files and passwords when the account owner passes away. The advantage: users do not need to deal with the varying policies of each of their social media, email or online service providers to organize their digital inheritance. Instead, they gather all essential passwords and files in one safe place and clearly define to whom they want to pass on what.

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