This post is part of our ongoing series exploring the impact of technology on legal issues. For an introduction to the series and a collection of the posts in the series, check out this post.
A few years ago, I wrote a blog article about Facebook’s New Legacy Contact, wherein you can appoint someone to manage your account posthumously. When you fail to appoint someone, Facebook’s current policy allows your next of kin to only have partial access to the account in order to either turn it into an online memorial page or to delete it entirely.
It seems that the highest court in Germany has taken issue with this limited access for a legacy contact, having recently determined that a minor’s parents have the right to inherit their daughter’s Facebook account. The parents of a 15 year old girl who passed away in 2012 sought access to her Facebook account in order to determine if her death was suicide. Facebook refused, citing their Legacy Contact policy and concern for the privacy of the girl’s other contacts. The Federal Court of Justice in Germany held that the account was similar to a person’s letters or private diary, both of which would pass on to a person’s heirs under German law.