In Switzerland alone there are more than 3.7 million Facebook users. Very few people are likely to worry about what happens after their death with the data in their accounts. Many also do not know that family members do not automatically have access to content that may be of interest to them as a memento. Because some social network operators do not give the survivors access to the deceased's accounts. This shows a Facebook case from Germany, which recently made headlines.
The parents of a girl who died in a meta-camp a few years ago in unexplained circumstances demanded access to her daughter's Facebook account. They hoped to find an answer to the question of whether their daughter had expressed herself in exchange for other suicidal intentions. Facebook but had the account frozen and did not want to release the content. The company relied on data protection and contractual provisions. In contrast, the parents successfully defended themselves in court. In July, the federal court ruled that Facebook had to share the contents of the account with the parents.
The judges argued that the entire estate of a deceased passes to the heirs. These include, for example, diaries or letters. There is no reason to treat personal digital content differently. The parents were the heirs of the user contract that their daughter had signed with Facebook.
Only assets and debts
The verdict is one of the first to address the problem of digital heritage. Although it has no direct effect on Switzerland, lawyer Rahel Reich of the law firm Blum and Grob says. "However, it is worth noting that the lawsuit of the heirs against the foreign online service provider was handled by a German court and the German law was applied." German legislation, which was relevant in this case, was comparable to the Swiss. "However, that does not mean that a Swiss court would decide the same in this case as the highest German court."
According to the Swiss inheritance law, the inheritance as a whole transfers to the heirs. However, the inheritance only included the possessions and debts of the deceased, expert Reich says. This includes digital data stored on a device or physical disk. The data stored on the internet are usually not possessions, but personal items. Whether this information also belongs to the estate and has been passed on to the heirs, has not yet been clarified in Switzerland, according to Reich.
Already a few years ago, Parliament demanded that the Federal Council complete the succession to resolve the problem. The report on the review of the right to inheritance is not included in the last week of the digital legacy.
Also privacy relevant
In the case of the digital domain, not only hereditary aspects play a role. Online services usually discuss arguments for data protection. This was also the case in the Facebook case. Facebook said that the data of those who exchanged opinions with the deceased girl on the network must also be protected. These correspondents ultimately trusted that their content would not be passed on to third parties.
The Federal Court has weighed in this case, the interests of the heirs higher. In Switzerland, however, it is not clear whether the heirs have any right to information under the applicable data protection legislation. With the current revision of the Personal Data Protection Act, the heirs receive an explicit right to information. Since the revision has been delayed, it takes several years before this question is resolved.
All in all, the local legislation currently provides only limited resources for the heirs to claim the data of deceased relatives.
In general, the legal situation is not clear. Attorney Rahel Reich therefore advises, in time to determine what to do with their own data after death.
This requires a corresponding arrangement in a conventional testament. However, a testamentary alone is not enough. It is also essential to create a complete, constantly updated list of all user accounts with the corresponding user names and passwords. These can be stored in a safe place, known to a trusted person. It is also conceivable that the information is stored on a mobile, password-protected data carrier, only the confidential advisor initiates and at the same time uses it as executor for the digital legacy.
Digital inheritance service
If you do not want to risk losing your password or falling into the wrong hands, you can deposit them in an online vault. Such offers, for example, the company Dswiss. The service also includes a digital inheritance function that, according to Dswiss, is now used by around 250,000 of the total of 1 million customers. This can be used to determine to whom the stored data go after their own demise.
If the message about the death of the account holder arrives, a process is started in several phases. This ensures that the account holder actually died. After a blocking period, the system informs the beneficiaries that they have inherited digital property. (Tages-Anzeiger)
Created: 02.09.2018, 17:44 clock