Court orders Yahoo to turn over dead Marine's email records;

This is just wrong on many levels. Why is it so important that his family pry into his personal life in the first place? I know if there’s one thing I don’t want my family looking at after I die, it’s my email. If I wanted them to read anything, I’d have fwd’d it to them, or printed it out and shown them.

Also, how did the judge justify the ruling? How isn’t this a violation of privacy? This kind of makes me weirded out that perhaps my family could force gmail into giving them a CD of every email I’ve sent/recieved.

Thirdly, I pit the family for their stupidity.

What did you expect? Yahoo, by default, only saves the emails you recieve. You have to turn on an option that saves the ones you send. Personally, when I primarly used Yahoo for my mail, I didn’t save outgoing mail.

What, exactly, did they expect to find? Because if my family looked into my inbox, that’s pretty much all they’re going to see.

Also, I hate the way the article is written to make Yahoo look like the bad guys.

I agree. Unless he specifically said in his will that the family should get access, they had no business getting access. That court decision was out of line.


I agree that the parents have no business shuffling through their son’s private stuff, but I think they may have the legal right to do so anyway. I assume that inheritted all his stuff, so why wouldn’t this would include his Yahoo account? I can’t blame Yahoo from balking at the request, but isn’t this no different from them going through his saved paper correspondence or his diary?

That’s not to say that this isn’t unhealthy or disrepectful, but i think it is legal.

I suppose I could see that point.

However, with a free Yahoo account (which I’m assuming he had), after 30 days of inactivity (which I’m assuming there was, since he was in Iraq presumably for awhile before his death), Yahoo deletes all emails in the inbox. I think they keep them in a backup for a certain amount of time afterwards for legal reasons, but after that they’re deleted. Which means Yahoo actually had to go through the trouble of recovering these from backups, and disclosing them to the family. Even though had he survived Iraq, and come back, he wouldn’t have had any way of accessing them. I’d imagine even if he took it to court, he wouldn’t have been able to lay any claim to them.

And another thing. Despite only being 21, I’m wanting more and more to write out a will, so that after I die everyone knows exactly what to do.

Heh? Wha’? What are you planning on doing with the part you have? I’m so confused. Talk about a waste of attorney’s fees and court costs. What were they expecting to find? A map to the hidden treasure?

Let me get this straight. This guy’s grieving parents probably got everything this dead Marine owns sent to them in a box, from his dress uniform to his dirty underwear, and you think Yahoo has some obligation to withhold the deceased’s emails from his next of kin… for what reason? Just “because?” Why would email be treated any differently than any other possession?

It’s not clear in the article, but I’d say the odds are that the parents just want to know about what their son was doing and thinking in his final days on Earth. Hence, that’s why they are upset that they didn’t receive any emails that the young Marine actually wrote.

If Yahoo fought the judge’s order, I think Yahoo would have deserved a pitting. You’ll have a hell of a time convincing me that the greiving parents did anything wrong here.

Then hie yer butt down to your local library and read over the copy of *Quick & Legal Will Book * conveniently located in the reference section and DO IT!

Yahoo (and all other email providers) needs to add a boolean setting to their email accounts, “Release email to next of kin on death?”.

I’ll be posthumously embarrassed enough when my Mom has to come down and pack up my porn…

His family was amazed to learn that thier son was aquainted with so many respectable Nigerian businessmen.

That’s true. Yahoo shouldn’t have to go to any great lengths to recover this guy’s files. If the outgoing emails don’t exist, then they don’t exist. Yahoo is not the Internet’s archivist.

That said, in the article the family was puzzled about why Yahoo simply didn’t fork over the password. Perhaps the stuff only elapsed because Yahoo delayed the thing in court? I know soldiers in Iraq do have occassional Internet access, so this guy may have been checking in up to his last days.

Because if it were me, I there is no way in hell that I would want my parents to see my Yahoo email. I am not the first one in this thread to say the same thing. We have no idea what the kid would have wanted and we should err on the side of privacy.

In addition, the Yahoo followed their own Terms of Service. When the Marine signed up for Yahoo he agreed to those terms and had the expectation that they would be followed.

No one is disputing the good intentions of the parents. It is almost a certainty that the outgoing mail isn’t there because the Marine didn’t check the “Save Outgoing Mail” box in the options. How is that Yahoo’s fault.

I don’t know that the parents did anything wrong but Yahoo should not have released the information. They should probably add a new option for their subscribers to opt in or out of letting your survivors have access after your death.


If you don’t want your next of kin to get everything that was yours when you were alive, you need to spell it out in your will. If you don’t, they have the rights to everything that was yours.

Hell, how is anybody to know either way what the deceased wanted? In the absence of specific directions, we should by default assume that whatever the deceased had goes to the next of kin, including email. That was the court’s decision, and Yahoo didn’t fight it.

If you want a secret email account that your parent’s won’t see on your death, don’t write them with it.

Does he really “own” his Yahoo account? Not according to the Terms of Service to which he agreed when he got one.

If you want your next of kin to have access to your free email account, give them the password in your will or sign up for a service with different terms.


Well, if there was a Court Order, there is a record of it. Why not look it up and let us know, rather than guessing? The Judge was given some convincing reasons. There shoudl be all the info you should need, including the Judges reasoning and such.

Jaade, you posted exactly the question and quote that I had planned to post. I can sympathize with their loss, and maybe trying to dig into his life is how they are dealing with it, but it does seem very wrong. I believe that privacy should transcend death (with debatable exceptions).

I totally agree. Electronic correspondence should be dealt with exactly as paper correspondence is. How can an executor properly wrap up an estate if they don’t have access to the full details of someone’s life? Their online bank accounts, their internet accounts that need to be paid and cancelled. Online friends that should be notified of their death and possibly invited to the funeral.

Looks like something I’ll have to do next week. Thanks for the ref!

Fine. Put it in your will. You must admit that nobody here has any idea whatsoever if the Marine wanted his email – or his shoes, or his jewlery, or his porn collection, or his love letters received from his girlfriend – withheld from his parents. If someone doesn’t declare that they don’t want one of their possession to go to their next of kin, why right does a judge, or God forbid, the owners of Yahoo, have to overrule the poor kid’s parents?

Are you saying that judges should arbitrarily rule that certain articles should never be passed on to one’s next of kin? What makes email any different than letters in the eyes of the law? What right do judges have to seize the personal property of deceased people so that it won’t fall into the hands of their next of kin? That notion is bizarre in the extreme.

I’d love to see anything in the Yahoo TOS that says that they will refuse to honor lawfully promulgated court orders. Oh! Wait! It doesn’t say that at all! It says: “Yahoo! does not rent, sell, or share personal information about you with other people or nonaffiliated companies except to provide products or services you’ve requested, when we have your permission, or under the following circumstances: [snip]** We respond to subpoenas, court orders, or legal process**, or to establish or exercise our legal rights or defend against legal claims…” Cite.

It seems to me that Yahoo would violate its privacy policy – the same one the Marine signed up to – if it did not release this information to the court. You DO want Yahoo to abide by its privacy policy, right?

Why don’t you just put it in your will? Why is it Yahoo’s responsibility to serve as a probate attorney for everyone who signs up for their email service?

I was annoyed with the tone of that article as well. Yahoo! has done nothing wrong. I almost get the impression the family thought as soon as they described the situation, Yahoo! should have just given him is password without delay. Well, I sure as hell am glad Yahoo! made them get a court order and prove their claim to his messages was legitimate.

I also have the “save sent messages” option turned off. Yahoo! isn’t trying to withhold messages from the family.

As well, I have not used or checked my Yahoo! email for 6 months (it’s a spam magnet). Just checked…still active. No idea why.