This Techregister.co.uk article highlights an announcement by Apple that users can now specify a number of individuals to access their phone's account after their deaths. In recent years the media has been full of various tales of families of deceased users struggling to access such information. Sadly, this has often been the case for young users who have died; given they often have a greater social media presence. As such technology becomes ever more intertwined in our lives, these issues will undoubtedly soon begin to affect every deceased person's estate.
The basic challenge is that the corporate entities holding this information are often based outside the UK (as indeed often are the servers that 'physically' hold the digital information). As such when approached by an estate, they seek to apply the privacy laws of their country which can often forbid granting such access without appropriate documentation. As the article highlights, in extreme circumstances this could even involve obtaining a court order with much delay and expense.
In an era when our mobile phones, and the systems behind them, are often as powerful as a desktop computer and hold more sensitive information than a safe deposit box, such matters can become of paramount importance after death. Sadly, it is also not uncommon for social media accounts of deceased persons to be targeted by cyber-squatters intent on causing harm.
Hopefully this is the start of similar tech companies and social media giants, that do not yet have such a facility, beginning to appreciate the value of such a provision (and the benefit of grieving loved ones having one less obstacle). In the short term such issues can be addressed as far as possible by a well drafted Will but challenges will remain until this provision is adopted more widely.
Without the phone’s passcode or iCloud information, surviving family members sometimes had to get a court order for access to a deceased loved one’s digital data.