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What Happens to Your Email After You Die?

NextGov: “Life keeps us so busy writing emails that most of us haven’t considered what happens to our electronic communications when we’re dead. Can they be accessed by your family, or by a representative you designated in life? What if you leave no will and people need to know what you wanted done with your stuff? On Monday (Oct. 16), a Massachusetts appeals court ruled in Yahoo v. Ajemian that even if permission wasn’t expressly granted, legal representatives of a deceased email-account holder can access messages in order to discern his or her intent for the estate. The case arose in 2009 in Massachusetts probate court, after 43-year-old Robert Ajemian died in a bicycle accident. He left no will and his siblings were named his estate’s representatives by law. They sought access to emails in a Yahoo account to figure out how their brother wanted his things distributed. Yahoo argued that sharing the communications was a violation of privacy protections in the federal Stored Communications Act (SCA) of 1986, and also was in breach of the company’s own terms of service…This was the first time a US court faced this precise issue, according to an amicus brief  in the case filed by Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic. It arose because the SCA didn’t anticipate the communications revolution to come, the Harvard filing explained: “Its framers 30 years ago could not imagine a world where vast quantities of valuable data are stored in the cloud.”…

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