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Informational Privacy (Essay Sample)


If the law does not keep pace with technological developments (and it always seems to be at least one step behind), the consequences can be devastating, even in the seemingly simplest of things. What could be more technologically routine these days than e-mail? And yet ...
Justin Ellsworth was a Marine who gave his life for his country. By all accounts he was a brave and fine Marine, and we all owe him the highest debt of gratitude.
But we were also left with a serious question—what to do with his e-mail?
His parents wanted access. They wanted to see what their son had to say. However, e-mail is private, and Yahoo, his e-mail provider, had a terms-of-service agreement with him that guaranteed its privacy—even his death. And while we sympathize greatly with his parents, there is also a precedent to be concerned about. One can't simply waive the privacy issue, as a decision to release the information could have serious consequences for e-mail privacy for us all.
Case Assignment
The issue needs to be discussed, thought through, and resolved. That is why we study cases like this, so we can think these things through and try to respect the family, the deceased, and the needs of society. So I ask you:
•Should Justin Ellsworth's parents have been given access to his e-mail?
Answer the question in 3–5 pages. Assess the issue with separate and thorough explanations of the utilitarian and deontological considerations.
Go to the Web and to the Trident online library and find as much as you can on this case.
You can read about it by going to ProQuest:
Leach, Susan L. (2005). Who gets to see the e-mail of the deceased? Christian Science Monitor, May 2, pg. 12.
Many legal experts say Yahoo! acted correctly. It denied the family's informal request and only yielded under court order.
"I would hope that the Yahoo! position here would become a trade practice—that e-mail would only be released if a judge approved it," says Gerald Ferrera, executive director of the Cyberlaw Center at Bentley College in Waltham, Mass.
For Yahoo!'s part, the company says it still stands behind its commitment to treat each user's e-mail as private and confidential. "We are pleased that the court has issued an order resolving this matter ... and allowing Yahoo! to continue upholding our privacy commitment to our users," says Yahoo! spokeswoman Mary Osako.
Most people leave their privacy in the hands of e-mail providers, rarely reading through the terms of service and privacy policy before clicking the "I agree" box. Yahoo! states that its accounts are nontransferable and that "rights to the Yahoo! I.D. and contents within the account terminate upon death." Destroying the data once the contract ends simplifies life for Internet service providers (ISPs), says Mr. [Alan Chappell].
Assignment Expectations
•Your paper should be double-spaced and in 12-point type size.
•Your paper should have a separate cover page and a separate reference page containing the full citations corresponding to the in-text citations you choose to use in the body of your paper.
•Cite sources of information in your text
•Proofread your paper before submitting it.


Information Privacy
Corporal Justine Ellsworth a Marine Lance died in 2004 while in the line of duty in Iraq. Just like most people in the contemporary world, Justine operated a Yahoo e-mail account. It is expected that an email account contains a lot of information about a person some of which should remain private and confidential at all cost. After Justine’s death, his family wished to have access to their son’s Yahoo e-mail account so as to capture all the information that would give them some insight about his life. However Yahoo declined to give the family their son’s password for his e-mail account. Yahoo’s argument was that the e-mail services’ Terms and conditions mandate the company to delete an account after they are notified about the owner’s demise (Desai, 2011). This paper argues that Corporal Justine Ellsworth’s parents had the right to be given the access to their son’s e-mail account.
When opening a Yahoo e-mail just like other e-mail services providers, the user is expected to agree and consent to the ‘Yahoo Terms of Service and Privacy Policy’ while in the process of signing-up. Part of the Terms of Service reads that the account holder’s survivors have no right of entry to the e-mail account of the dead person. This condition is under the section entitled ‘No Right of Survivorship and Non-Transferability’ which state that the account holder must agree that his/her account’s contents terminate upon death (Darrow & Ferrera, 2012).
Kutler came up with a proposal which a large number of people would go for; have their online persona treated as part of one’s property and handled just like any other asset which can be handed down to a designated person (Kutler, 2011). Many would argue that an online persona consists of unique attributes such as name, photo, signature, image and voice. Such attributes identify a person to other people online through his e-mail account and other online social networks and it becomes part of legacy to the deceased’s heirs. The major problem is that most people hardly go through the terms of use before proceeding with the sign-up process of acquiring an e-mail account. However these terms still governs the user of such services (Darrow & Ferrera, 2012; Kutler, 2011).
The introduction of Web 2.0 and the internet’s site capacity to store a huge amount of data has raised several concerns regarding data access and privacy. While some e-mails may not have some significance such as the unsolicited commercial e-mails, some may be of great personal significance to those close to the deceased. Some e-mails messages from celebrities and other significant figures may be valued highly and attract a lot of cash as evidenced by papers written by Martin Luther King, love letters written by Maria Callas and letters by John Lennon as well as Joe DiMagggio’s sandals. Many people offered to buy such items for thousands or even million dollars. In addition, e-mail allows storage and sending

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