Digital Assets Court Ruling against Apple in the UK

This morning James Norris, of the Digital Legacy Association spoke on BBC Breakfast about the importance of making our wishes know. It follows this weeks court ruling in which a judge ordered Apple to provide the family photos and videos stored on the late Matt Thompson’s iPhone.

The judge ordered that Apple provide the photos and videos held on Matt’s Thompson’s iPhone to his widow, Rachel Thompson. By passing on access to over 2000 family images and videos Rachel Thompson she thinks it will help their daughter Matilda to better remember her father.

In 2016 following the Sue and Colin Heir Case the Digital Legacy Association published the following recommendations to help improve the ways in which digital assets can be passed on by Apple users:

Apple’s Statement

“In the absence of permission for third party access to an account, its impossible to be certain what access a user would have wanted and we do not consider it appropriate for Apple to make the decisions….however in  such cases we can assist subject to an appropriate court order.

The Digital Legacy Association’s response to Apple’s statement

It is important that computer manufacturers like Apple start building their devices and services with end of life and data transfer in mind. For example, after purchasing a computer and whilst setting it up an Apple account the following question could be asked:

“Upon death, would you like the content saved on your Apple Macbook to be granted to loved one or business contact”?

When the user says “yes” the user would then decide what level of access their beneficiaries should receive. To complete this process the user could then need to assign the name and contact email address of the chosen account beneficiary/beneficiaries. Upon the person’s death or when the user loses capacity Apple would be able to review the person’s request and ensure that their wishes are adhered to. Source

Rachel Thompson’s court ruling

This week’s ruling in favour of Rachel Thompson may increase the likelihood that Apple and other device manufacturers will build new features that better enable users to share their data with a trusted person upon death.

The Digital Legacy Association also hope and recommend that device manufacturers who use biometric recognition (such as a fingerprint or iris) better inform users that a master password is also be needed by a third party in order to access a device upon death. This is because biometric recognition is often is not available immediately after a device runs out of battery, is switched off or after a specified length of time. This is one of the factors that prevented access being obtained by Rachel Thompson and her daughter Matilda.

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