There are just so many facets and angles to this story, it’s almost impossible to determine if there is a right and a wrong, let alone who is which.
Justin Ellsworth, of Wixom, Michigan, was killed last month while on foot patrol in Iraq.
John Ellsworth, the grieving father of the 20-year-old Marine, asked Yahoo to please give him access to his son’s email account.
Now, this raises some interesting issues. Online privacy policies are (or should be) considered sacrosanct.
On the other hand, when you pass away, generally all of your possessions which are not otherwise divided by a will are passed on to your next of kin, in this case Justin’s father, John. This would typically include things such as letters and other mail, the contents of safe deposit boxes, the contents of a locker – all things which arguably are afforded the same degree of privacy while you are alive, but which pass on to and become the property of an immediate family member when you are gone.
Is email any different? Should it be?
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If Justin’s father decides to go that route, he won’t have to look far to find an attorney or two willing to take the case. In fact, offers of help have been pouring in from across the country. And not just from attorneys offering free legal services and concerned samaritans offering money, but even from computer forensic experts offering to help crack his son’s password.
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Said Ellsworth, “It’s an overwhelming response. … Things are really moving. I’m very encouraged by it all, but I still have my reservations.”
It’s certainly a tough situation, and it will be interesting to see how it resolves.
In the meantime, of course, our hearts and thoughts go out to the Ellsworth family, and to all families who have recently lost a loved one.
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