Justin Ellsworth Essay

Submitted By nightgod_2002
Words: 1023
Pages: 5

Should one be allowed to retrieve the e-mail of a dead relative? Sounds like a simple question, however, it has sparked massive debate over copyright laws, privacy concerns and our new lives online. The digital age has brought about a great many changes in correspondence and utility of our time. With it have come laws that are far behind the power curve. The question really should be, is your e-mail private or can it be handed over to someone without your consent? In this specific case it was the e-mail of LCPL Justin Ellsworth, United States Marine Corps that was requested by his father after his death in Fallujah, Iraq. His e-mail should never have been given to another person without express written consent. I will show how privacy rights and concerns would be violated by the overturn of his private thoughts and correspondence to someone that he did not agree to give it to.

We as a society find great joy and happiness in the fact that we are allowed to be private citizens and lead private lives without fear of infringement. The thoughts I have and the things I say to a specific person are between myself and that person and should only concern us. Whether that be verbally, through letters or through e-mail no other person or court should be authorized to share this with anyone that I did not specifically give written consent to. Justin Ellsworth’s e-mail was his personal property and should be treated as such. Utilitarian thinking deems that we must show something will cause the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of people.

In this case giving Justin Ellsworth’s e-mail to his parents would set precedence for our society stating that it is ok to invade someone’s privacy after they have died. Since society as a whole is happiest when our privacy is respected giving the e-mails to his family would do the exact opposite. Meaning it would cause the greatest amount of pain for the greatest amount of people. Additionally, Justin Ellsworth had agreed to the terms of service of his service provide which states that its accounts are nontransferable and that "rights to the Yahoo! I.D. and contents within the account terminate upon death." Overturning this agreement in court is an egregious error and a folly that should not be allowed.

As far as rights are concerned it is simple. In accordance with the fourth amendment to the United States Constitution "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated". Plainly stated in this is that I have a right to keep all of my personal effects and items created by my person private and that you have a duty not to try and gain control of these items and effects. Deontology argues that ethics are defined in a rights versus duties thought process. Basically if I have a right then you have a duty to honor that right regardless of whether you want to or not. If we are going to allow Justin Ellsworth’s parents to seize the contents of his e-mail account without his express written consent then where will this violation of basic inalienable rights stop?

If you track all the changes in our country you will see that everyday there are people arguing for and against our civil rights. The right to bear arms and the right to freedom of speech are easily the most debated. Will there be a court order against me stating my opinion soon? As a Soldier and a human being I sympathize with his parents and I understand their pain and suffering but we need to ask ourselves if we would want someone to have access to our e-mail after our death.

It has been stated by Yahoo® that they receive