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Should Justin Ellsworth’s Parents Have Been Given Access to His Email? Essay


Communication with the help of email became the part of the people’s everyday activities which include personal face-to-face communication and official contacts with colleagues and partners. However, the character of email as the electronic correspondence and as a box for saving the private files, letters, and photographs prevents researchers and specialists from concluding strictly about the laws and ethical norms which can regulate the use of email after the owner’s death.

Lawyers have no single view on the category according to which it is appropriate to discuss the issues associated with using email by non-owners. The case of Justin Ellsworth contributed to creating the precedent in regulating the procedures in which the email providers and owners are involved. The parents of Justin Ellsworth asked for providing them with an access to the son’s email, but Yahoo, as a provider, rejected the request. It was complied only according to the court’s order.

The parents received the access, but the question is in ethical nature of this situation (Leach, 2005). Is it possible that all the persons discussed as relatives can receive the access to the personal email after someone’s death? Following the laws and regulations associated with privacy, property, and copyright laws, it is possible to state that Ellsworth’s parents should not have been given the access to email because of violating legal and ethical norms.

The decision to give the access to Ellsworth’s email was based on the court’s order, but this case cannot ne discussed as the pattern to follow in similar situations because it can indirectly violate the privacy standards set by the Internet service providers. Thus, the case is controversial, and it should be discussed in relation to the deceased, the Internet service provider, and parents’ interests. Moreover, it is important to pay attention to the case’s details through the lens of the utilitarian and deontological ethics.

The interest of the deceased should be of a priority while resolving the problematic situation discussed in the case of Ellsworth. Confidential information and email resources should be protected according to similar laws focused on property and privacy protection.

The decision of a person not to share the password with the relatives should be taken into consideration after the person’s death because of his or her rights to protect privacy and save private information unreleased. According to the utilitarian approach, the appropriateness of the action and its ethical value can be assessed only with references to its consequences.

The consequences of realizing the private information from email can be positive as well as negative, depending on the contents of email. Moreover, following the principles of deontological ethics, it is possible to state that this action is wrong in its nature because it is not supported by the will of the deceased person (Strutin, 2011). Thus, the interests of the deceased cannot be satisfied when relatives receive the access to email.

Yahoo protected its interests while rejecting the request of Ellsworth’s parents. The actions of the provider depended on the company’s policies and ethical conduct (Leach, 2005). There are situations when the access to email is necessary for police and security agencies, and decisions about providing the access should be made only with references to the court’s orders.

Any case similar to the situation with the request of Ellsworth’s parents should be discussed independently, regarding the consequences for the public. Thus, from the perspective of the utilitarian ethics, similar decisions can be relevant only when positive consequences are guaranteed. Still, the Internet service providers cannot violate standards fixed in their policies, and any release of the private email content can be discussed as the wrong action from the point of the deontological ethics.

The next issue is the role of relatives and their interests in the case of Ellsworth and other associated cases. On the one hand, the public can feel sympathy for the loss of Ellsworth’s parents and discuss their request as appropriate for the situation. On the other hand, it is necessary to pay attention to the fact that parents have no right to control correspondence or have the access to email during their children’s life because of the people’s human rights for privacy.

Assessing the consequences of providing the access to email of the deceased person, investigators can conclude that the information saved in files and correspondence can have both the negative and positive effect on the parents’ life or on the dead person’s reputation (Strutin, 2011). Furthermore, it is immoral to violate the ethical norms associated with privacy, if such a situation was not discussed previously by all the parties.

Nevertheless, the negative consequences of the case’s resolution for the public are obvious. If email correspondence and files are opened for the relatives of the dead person once, the situation can be repeated in the future. Thus, there is no guarantee that the privacy of email will be preserved according to the privacy policy of the provider’s company. From the ethical perspective, this situation is the violation of human rights. That is why, no access to email should be given to people after their relatives’ deaths.

References

Leach, S. (2005). Who gets to see the e-mail of the deceased? Retrieved from

Strutin, K. (2011). What happens to your digital life when you die? New York Law Journal, 6(1), 12-13.

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IvyPanda. (2019, May 1). Should Justin Ellsworth’s Parents Have Been Given Access to His Email? Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/should-justin-ellsworths-parents-have-been-given-access-to-his-email/

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"Should Justin Ellsworth’s Parents Have Been Given Access to His Email?" IvyPanda, 1 May 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/should-justin-ellsworths-parents-have-been-given-access-to-his-email/.

1. IvyPanda. "Should Justin Ellsworth’s Parents Have Been Given Access to His Email?" May 1, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/should-justin-ellsworths-parents-have-been-given-access-to-his-email/.


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IvyPanda. "Should Justin Ellsworth’s Parents Have Been Given Access to His Email?" May 1, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/should-justin-ellsworths-parents-have-been-given-access-to-his-email/.

References

IvyPanda. 2019. "Should Justin Ellsworth’s Parents Have Been Given Access to His Email?" May 1, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/should-justin-ellsworths-parents-have-been-given-access-to-his-email/.

References

IvyPanda. (2019) 'Should Justin Ellsworth’s Parents Have Been Given Access to His Email'. 1 May.

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