Family seeks Yahoo e-mails of fallen US soldier

[23 Dec 2004]

The family of a US marine killed last month in Iraq is facing off against Internet giant Yahoo to gain access to his e-mail account.

The family of Lance Corporal Justin Ellsworth says it wants to preserve the e-mails in a scrapbook dedicated to his memory. Ellsworth, 20, died November 13 in Iraq.

"I think what it was is he didn't have a chance to send them to me," John Ellsworth, the dead marine's father, told CNN.

"We had discussed that. We were going to print them out and post them in an album for future generations, his brothers and sisters, and just as a reminder of the times," Ellsworth's father said.

But Yahoo, which hosts the e-mail account, has refused to allow Ellsworth's family access to the account, citing its policy that all e-mails are private and will not be shared with third parties.

"Our hearts go out to the Ellsworths and any family that suffers from a tremendous loss such as this," Yahoo spokeswoman Christine Castro said.

"The commitment we've made to every person who signs-up for a Yahoo Mail account is to treat their e-mail as a private communication and to treat the content of their messages as confidential," she added.

Both Castro and John Ellsworth agree that the family's request breaks new ground regarding e-mail privacy.

John Ellsworth said his family has received several offers to help break into his son's e-mail account, but he would prefer to settle the issue with Yahoo in a fair manner, while at the same time insisting that his son's e-mails are the property of his estate.

The family's lawyer, Brian Daily, told the Detroit News that he would seek to put John Ellsworth in control of his son's estate, which would give him the right to the e-mails.

"Then it becomes a matter of collecting the property for the estate," Daily said. "Our position would be just because the bank owns a safety deposit box doesn't mean the contents belong to the bank."

Last modified date and time: 01/17/2005 8:40