German court says 'Nein' on Facebook profile access request

Berlin bench rules against parents' access to teen's account

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A German appeals court has ruled that Facebook does not need to give the parents of a deceased teen access to the child's account.

The Court of Appeals in Berlin on Wednesday overturned a regional court's decision to allow the parents of a 15-year-old girl who died in 2012 access to the teen's Facebook account to view her communications.

According to press reports, the parents have been trying to find out whether the child, who was struck by an underground train, intended to commit suicide. The parents believe that the girl's Facebook messages could provide some insight into whether she had been bullied or pressured before her death.

Facebook, meanwhile, had opposed the motion, instead setting the account into a "memorialized" status that only allowed wall posts and locked out any access to the account itself.

The social network says it had worried that a court ruling could set precedent to erode the privacy rights of other account holders after their deaths.

"We are pleased with the court's decision today. We empathize with the family and are respectful of their wish," a Facebook spokesperson told The Register.

"We are committed to trying to find a solution that helps the family, while protecting the privacy of others who might be affected."

Privacy of users has long been among the biggest problems for Facebook, which has to balance protecting user data with the big financial incentives that come from sharing it with outside parties.

Last year, the social network squared off with advertisers over access to profile information and has in recent months tried to beef up its protection of user accounts from prying eyes. ®


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