Parental rights issues are being redefined in the social media landscape. Should parents have access to their deceased child’s online accounts?
I recently came across this headline while browsing my news feed and knew that I had to sort out the “whys” of this one. Here it is:
German court denies mother access to dead daughter’s FB data
Well this one is bound to tug at the heartstrings a bit.
Back in 2012 a German girl stepped in front of a subway train, ending her short life. She was fifteen years old. That is only five years older than my sweet, oldest daughter. Can you imagine the shock and pain this girl’s parents must have felt receiving that phone call? I can’t. I can not even begin to fathom walking around this planet without my children sharing it with me, and I am sure most (if not all) parental readers can agree. Losing a child is an unimaginable pain we wouldn’t wish upon our worst enemy.
Aside from searing, lifelong pain and grief, this girl’s parents were left with questions. What happened? Why did this happen? Was this a devastating accident or worse? Was it intentional on her part? What was going on in our child’s life that led to this? How will we ever know the answers to these painful questions?
She had a Facebook account. Social media and personal devices are quickly becoming the new techie super-sleuth when it comes to solving mysteries. Have you seen these headlines?
Social media leaves a trail of information regarding the user’s friends, dealings, interests and feelings. Facebook has become a virtual scrapbook and timeline of one’s life. Of course the parents thought they could turn to her account and scour it for any signs that might help them understand why their baby no longer walks the earth. Wouldn’t you want to do the same if it was your child? I would. I don’t know how I would ever get through scrolling my daughter’s recent words and thoughts or glancing at images of her smiling with friends, but I know I would rally and get through it someway and somehow if it meant answers and closure.
Unfortunately for this girl’s parents they will not likely have the opportunity to do this with their deceased daughter’s social media account. Recently a Berlin court ruled against the parents in their request to gain access to the Facebook account in question. The German courts claim that privacy laws outweigh parental laws and granting permission to the account would set a slippery precedent. Here is their official statement: “If Facebook is made aware that a person has passed away, it’s our policy to memorialize the account,” it says. “Please keep in mind that it’s always against the Facebook Terms to log into another person’s account. We’ll only be able to give you access to an account if we can verify that it’s your own account.” While I personally understand this angle of protecting the privacy of the deceased, this person was a minor. Should minors have any legal privacy from their parents? I’m looking at my own kids and thinking: Nope.
One million Nopes, actually.
How does her age and status as a minor not change the course of this decision? I kind of wish it had, both for the sake of these grieving parents and for all of us raising children in the age of social media.
Best of luck to these parents in their appeal should they choose to go that route.