German court rules Facebook data can be inherited

File photo: A German court has ruled that Facebook data can be inherited when someone dies. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File) (Noah Berger)

(Noah Berger)

When someone dies, Facebook, or deletes or memorializes the individual account and cannot be accessed by anyone outside of the sharing of memories on the timeline. However, a recent ruling by the German high court to force Facebook to think about the rules with respect to these permanently locked accounts.

As Business Insider reports, a court case was filed by parents of a 15-year-old girl was killed by a train back in 2012. They wanted access to her Facebook account to see if they talked about suicide before her death, but Facebook would not allow it, because the account had remembered.

The Federal Court of Justice on the part of the parents and ruled that Facebook data, including messages, can be acquired, in the same way physical diaries or letters. Facebook does not agree, explaining that “Facebook accounts are used for a personal exchange between individuals, we have a duty to protect.”

Facebook is currently considering the judgement before deciding what to do next, against the court ruling. If it is allowed to stand, the decision could change the rules on the social network, at least in Germany, about what happens to a Facebook account when the owner dies. It is unlikely to spread to the US, but Facebook data legacy may end up becoming a Europe-wide requirement.

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Under the existing rules, Facebook offers a user the possibility to choose between permanently deleting their account or it turned into a memorialized account when they die. If that choice is not made for death, then the default option to commemorate. What this means is, the profile is no longer displayed in the public areas and no one can ever log into the account again, but friends can share memories on the account of the timeline, depending on privacy settings.

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