The Canadian Privacy Law Blog: Developments in privacy law and writings of a Canadian privacy lawyer, containing information related to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (aka PIPEDA) and other Canadian and international laws.

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The author of this blog, David T.S. Fraser, is a Canadian privacy lawyer who practices with the firm of McInnes Cooper. He is the author of the Physicians' Privacy Manual. He has a national and international practice advising corporations and individuals on matters related to Canadian privacy laws.

For full contact information and a brief bio, please see David's profile.

Please note that I am only able to provide legal advice to clients. I am not able to provide free legal advice. Any unsolicited information sent to David Fraser cannot be considered to be solicitor-client privileged.

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The views expressed herein are solely the author's and should not be attributed to his employer or clients. Any postings on legal issues are provided as a public service, and do not constitute solicitation or provision of legal advice. The author makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained herein or linked to. Nothing herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel.

This web site is presented for informational purposes only. These materials do not constitute legal advice and do not create a solicitor-client relationship between you and David T.S. Fraser. If you are seeking specific advice related to Canadian privacy law or PIPEDA, contact the author, David T.S. Fraser.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Is your e-mail private after your death? 

The family a US Marine who was killed in action has been trying to persuade Yahoo! to provide them with access to his mail inbox. The grieving father is quoted by the the Associated Press (via Yahoo!, ironically):

'I want to be able to remember him in his words. I know he thought he was doing what he needed to do. I want to have that for the future,' said John Ellsworth, Justin's father. 'It's the last thing I have of my son.'

But without the account's password, the request has been repeatedly denied. In addition, Yahoo! policy calls for erasing all accounts that are inactive for 90 days. Yahoo! also maintains that all users agree at sign-up that rights to a member's ID or contents within an account terminate upon death.

'While we sympathize with any grieving family, Yahoo! accounts and any contents therein are nontransferable' even after death, said Karen Mahon, a Yahoo! spokeswoman.

Since the story appeared, offers of help have poured in from lawyers and hackers. (See: Yahoo! News - Father Seeking Marine's E-Mail Gets Help)

I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, your executors act as your personal representative and get to rummage through all your stuff. Should e-mail be excluded from that? Shouldn't Yahoo! have to respond to the executor if presented with a duly certified copy of the late soldier's will? On the other hand, it may bother many people to think that your family may be able to view all your personal e-mails after your death. Perhaps people ought to think about dealing with these matters in their wills and giving directions to their e-mail providers for what to do after they are gone. One more thing to worry about, I guess.


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