Way back in May, Slashdotter dacar asked "What Happens To Your Data When You Die?" Your computer, your web accounts, your password-locked digital devices would all be rendered useless to your surviving friends and family if you haven't prepared a list of logins before passing.
In the tragic case of Marine Lieutenant Corporal Justin Ellsworth, who was killed in action late last year in Iraq, the Yahoo mail account he was using to communicate with his family from the front lines with will remain off-limits to his father. Yahoo's terms of service includes the clause:
No Right of Survivorship and Non-Transferability. You agree that your Yahoo! account is non-transferable and any rights to your Yahoo! I.D. or contents within your account terminate upon your death. Upon receipt of a copy of a death certificate, your account may be terminated and all contents therein permanently deleted.
His father, John Ellsworth, is having none of it, and has taken his story to the media. Slashdot covered the story last month, and today link to a more detailed feature on the BBC News website. When the article appeared on ZDNet, where readers can add comments to articles via their "Talkback" feature (scroll down), a debate has raged over the merits of Yahoo's legal case (which is pretty air-tight) versus the sensitivity to the family of a deceased soldier. Since Justin's account will expire automatically 90 days after he last used it, it will soon disappear into the aether, and his family will never know what their son might have had to say to them in the days before his death.Image via Albany, NY Capital 9 News, which has video coverage of the story.