Privacy does not end at death

By Jesus Figueroa


In a battle over privacy, lawyers go after Facebook to release accounts of deceased family members to their rightful heirs.

The attempts to change the internet laws came after a mother, Karen Williams, lost her 22 year-old son in a motorcycle accident.

She attempted to use her son’s account as a memorial for friends and family.

Facebook administrators locked her out of the account due to Facebook’s privacy rules.

Williams sued Facebook and won. In spite of her victory, she never had full access to the account which was later deactivated by Facebook administrators.

It is a creepy thought that anyone would be allowed use a Facebook profile that is not theirs.

Shows like MTV’s “Catfish” searches for those deceitful people who use fake accounts.

That may be an extreme example of malice due to fake Facebook accounts, but from the success of the film and show, it happens more often than most would expect.

One would not expect a mother to do something like using their child’s profile.

Identity theft is a growing issue in the United States leaving many devastating unwanted activity, such as frivolous spending associated to the victim’s name.

Does the privacy Facebook users have by using a password to access their personal account end at death or should their privacy continue regardless?

Would anyone want their mother snooping through their private messages and photos discovering a world they have kept hidden?

Facebook administration has their set of rules established to provide adequate care and protect users from any harm.

“You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission,” is stated in the first rule under subcategory “Registration and Account Security” in Facebook’s “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.”

To attempt to keep users safe there are many more rules to discourage fraudulent activity.

“You will not transfer your account (including any page or application you administer) to anyone without first getting our written permission,” says rule 9 in Facebook’s “Registration and Account Security.”

The Stored Communications Act of 1986 protects against getting access or the attempt to get access to private information online.

The argument now leads to the question “can digital assets be considered real estate transferable to next of kin after death?”

It is ridiculous that a mother would snoop through her dead child’s internet life through the content left on Facebook.

Many online profiles are not representative of the true nature behind the person who manages it.

I have two separate pages on Facebook. One is my personal profile which still does not show many things I do or everything regarding who I am.

The second is a Facebook page that displays more of what I do. It is dedicated to my writing and professional life.

Two different sides of me displayed in two different manners.

Probably the best way to immortalized the way a loved one is seen would be to create a page and fix it in a way best fitting to the vision preferred. Then suggest it to all who would appreciate the page.

This article has 1 Comment

  1. Yes it does. When someone dies, there is no expectation of privacy. An example I give was a story I wrote for C.N. about the death of three students who were killed in the City of Bell. In a nutshell, a man stole a car, hit a bunch of parked cars, struck four women walking at a crosswalk in Bell, killing three of them and driving away. Currently, the man is serving (I believe) 25 years to life for each woman he killed.

    The problem we had was the former president of ELAC refused to give up their information so that we could do an obit and contact the family for photos and comments. The president said that their information was private (under FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)) and refused to give up the information. We then contacted the school’s lawyer and said that the president could not censor us. As the deadline was fast approaching, we later found out that one of the woman marked on her record that her information was NOT private.

    So in order to avoid a lawsuit, the president complied and we wrote our obit. I was desperate. I was tempted to go to the City of Bell and ask the Chief of Police (a friend) for the information. He was about to give it to me but I said it was OK. The president gave us the information.

    When you die, you need to know this as a reporter, one’s privacy is no longer protected. Granted, we never gave up the information, like the women’s home addresses, we chose not to do so. If you look at your archives, look up the story of a former student named Lisa Quesada. She was the former ELAC student body president and we posted her transcript which included her: grade, her class as well as her social security number. We did this because there was a conflict with her being S.B. President and attending a four-year-college. Quesada said on the record that she couldn’t care less if C.N. post her grades and her S.S.#. Jean was punished for this but was given back her job as was the former EIC named Pio.

    Facebook, in all intent and purpose must comply and that is why they lost in court.

    To keep one’s information private after death would lead Campus News in a world of censorship and that is one thing we frown upon. Oh and the information we received and published about the former S.B. President? It was perfectly legal. The person who gave us the file may have violated federal law, yet we have every right to post the information. We won’t reveal our sources, but get this, you run the risk of being in jail indefinitely for being in contempt of court…that is the risk one takes being a reporter and I experienced it once…ask Jean about the President. and my opinion.

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