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FC: What happens to someone's email and web pages when they die?
From: Declan McCullagh <declan () well com>
Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2001 10:17:49 -0500

[I'd speculate that the property of the deceased becomes the property of the estate, but that's just a guess. Below message forwarded with permission. --Declan]


From: "Kelly J. Cooper" <kcooper () genuity net>
Message-Id: <1010215175327.ZM4675 () burlma1-sshare2 gtei net>
Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2001 17:53:26 +0000
To: declan () well com
Subject: weird question
MIME-Version: 1.0
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A sort of odd, slightly morbid Politech-related question - do you
know of any legal precedents for handling the electronic accounts of
the dead?

To be more specific, when someone dies, are there any laws or
accepted practices for handling their email account, their remote
files, their web pages, etc?  Are their files turned over to
relatives or deleted?  Do people put auto-responders on the
accounts with a death announcement?  Or a statement on the person's
web page?

One assumes that in a for-pay situation, the accounts (mail, web,
files) go away once the bills remain unpaid long enough.  But what
of accounts on a friend or acquaintance's system?

This is somewhat related to privacy since one has a limited
expectation of privacy on the things that one mails to another
person, but what are your own post-mortem privacy rights (if you
didn't specify details in your will, that is)?  If the deceased
committed suicide, does the family have a right to review his/her
files/email seeking hints as to why s/he did it?

It would appear that the police may look through the computer of a
murder victim, seeking records of contact or threats or similar.
But what are their limitations?

Kelly J.

Kelly J. Cooper        -  Security Engineer
GENUITY                -  Main # - 800-632-7638
3 Van de Graaff Drive  -  Fax - 781-262-2744
Burlington, MA 01803   -  http://www.genuity.net

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