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World

AFP
July 13, 2018

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‘Parents can inherit dead daughter’s FB account’

KARLSRUHE, Germany: Germany’s top court ruled on Thursday that Facebook should grant a grieving mother access to her dead daughter’s account, in a landmark judgement for how social network data is treated after its owners pass away.

Judges at the Federal Constitutional Court found that the daughter’s contract with Facebook was part of her legacy and should be passed on to the mother, giving her full access to the daughter’s account including her posts and private messages.

"The contract covering a user account with a social network is transferred to the heirs of the original owner of the account," the Karlsruhe-based court ruled. Those heirs "have a claim on the network operator for access to the account including communications data," the ruling continued.

The mother has battled Facebook through a years-long series of appeals after her 15-year-old daughter was killed by an underground train in 2012. The plaintiff hopes the data will shed light on whether the death was an accident or a suicide. As well as offering emotional closure, court documents show, the information could clear up whether the train driver is owed compensation -- as he might be if the daughter did kill herself.

The mother argued the contents of her daughter’s Facebook account are legally identical to a private diary or letters that might be inherited by loved ones after a person’s death. Judges at the court of first instance in Berlin agreed that the contract between the deceased and Facebook was covered by inheritance law, including the digital content created on the account.

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