Dead? Too bad.

http://gigaom.com/2012/09/27/dead-models-parents-cant-get-facebook-messages-judge-says/

This article was mentioned as a brief aside in the Gorgone reading for this week. Holy hell! I think we should give more attention to this subject.

 

The article, in summation, is about these parents of a model that died in December of 2011. Her death was rather mysterious and her grieving parents were trying to access her Facebook account to see if her private messages had any leads toward her death. Almost a year later, the parents were finally stopped in their tracks as a judge sided with Facebook’s privacy policy.

 

Yes, there is a law that disallows websites from sharing their users’ mail messages (Stored Communications Act) but for goodness sake, while not try to exclude the power of one law for extenuating circumstances?

 

That leads me to this related article: http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2012/09/stored_communic_1.htm

These “social media lawyers” say that people have the right to take their Facebooks to the grave with them. In addition, they speak of social media’s privacy guidelines in general and the ways that they choose to protect private information.

 

Guys, this all seems bananas to me. Why do social media sites claim full ownership when a user dies? If I were to die in a freak accident, would my apartment complex assume ownership of my material possessions left behind? Of course not; my parents would be contacted to gather my belongings. However in the world of web 2.0 all the new modes of communication available don’t “belong” to us in the same way that the XBOX in my apartment belongs to me. It is rather wacky, I hope most will agree.

So what options are available? We could all rally for a new law that makes social network sites demand a “next of kin” contact upon registration. Of course, that sounds pretty wacky as well. But wouldn’t it be a better alternative than having parents fight for access for a whole year only to get shut down in the end? Of course, if a “next of kin” or “digital will” (DigiWill? Get that patented!) are implemented in social media there would probably be an outcry of privacy issues from users. Which leads me to further think about how odd it is that users are extremely wary of their online privacy but don’t seem to think twice about their rights of ownership. I would think that the two go hand-in-hand, but as I mentioned in my presentation, web 2.0 has a real “take-it-or-leave-it” attitude when it comes to their users’ rights.

 

Perhaps one day users will finally be satisfied enough with their social media privacy, at which point they will realize that all the private content they have online doesn’t even belong to them. Nonetheless, I still feel bad for the parents in the first article above. Laws are laws, rules are rules, etc. But when it comes to a person’s life and a grieving family, why can’t the programmers of a website feel a bit of humanity and help out a bit? Maybe they’re afraid to set precedence, maybe they’re trying to make an example out of these parents, but at the end of the day I still must ask, “what the hell, Facebook?”

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