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Judge orders Apple to give widow access to her late husband's online photos after four-year legal fight

Judge orders Apple to give widow access to her late husband's online photos after four-year legal fight

A widow who wanted access to her late husband’s photographs has won a three-year legal battle against tech giant Apple.



Rachel Thompson, 44, spent thousands of pounds forcing Apple to open the account so she could help her daughter Matilda, ten, remember her father through images he stored online.

Mrs Thompson’s initial attempts to access her husband Matt’s account after he took his own life in July 2015 were rebuffed by the American company.

Apple said that it would only release the 4,500 photos and 900 videos under a court order as Mr Thompson had not specified what access others should have to his account after his death aged 39.
Mrs Thompson, a property adviser from Chiswick, west London, said this contrasted with the easy transfer of all her husband’s other assets and ‘dragged out’ the grieving process. Under UK law, the loved ones of people who pass away have no legal right to access information held in the deceased’s online accounts.

Mrs Thompson met her husband when she was 19 and he was 18 and they married ten years later. Mr Thompson, an estate agent, took thousands of photos on his iPhone charting their relationship and Matilda’s early childhood.

His Apple account also contained photos of Mrs Thompson’s father, who died 18 months after her husband.

After his death, Mrs Thompson, pictured below with Matilda, said she was more concerned about the photos and videos than other assets.
She said images are ‘valuable’ and ‘videos are really nice because it’s amazing how quickly you forget what somebody sounds like.’

Mrs Thompson last week won a court order to force Apple to give her access to the account and images.

In a ruling on the case at Central London County Court, Judge Jan Luba called for a change in the law and a simpler way to settle these cases in the future. Legal experts supported this, and said companies should owe a ‘digital duty of care’ to grieving families.

Barrister Matt Himsworth said: ‘Photos used to be kept in physical photo albums but now they’re kept online. Now, instead of looking through a photo album, our loved ones need a username and password to access this material. But what happens when they don’t have this information?

‘The UK needs to deal with this issue as more and more of us use cloud-based accounts and social media.

‘There should be a universal process in order for heirs of estates to access the data held in these accounts.’

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