In this essay, I will attempt to analyze the utilitarian and deontological considerations of the issue of should Yahoo had been forced to turn over Justin Ellsworth’s emails to his parents. Individual privacy is most valuable right that people possesses especially; during our time of advance technology. It is among the essential values on which our country was founded. As with all rights, there are limitations. Technology advancement has added more challenges to individual privacy. Email privacy is an issue that affects a growing number of people. To fully appreciate the lack of privacy and security of our email messages, it is important to understand the issues and threat that exist” (Inforweblink). Many argue that a person email account contains as much as information as a person bank account if not more and it should be treated as such. If we should treat our email accounts as our bank accounts then is it right for the courts to force companies to hand over information to third parties? Utilitarian consideration is described as the “greatest good for the greatest number of people” (Bentham).
To determine who would gain the most from the emails, we must identify the parties involve. The parties involved are Yahoo (the email service provider), Justin and Justin’s parents. With all email account, the user must sign a user agreement. In most agreement, privacy is the number one topic covered. Yahoo user agreement states, “You agree that your Yahoo! account is non-transferable and any rights to your Yahoo! ID or contents within your account terminate upon your death. ” The statement was created to protect the privacy of all including the decease.
Yahoo risked losing the trust of its users if they willingly gave up Justin’s email to his parents. According to Yahoo Information Sharing and Disclosure section of the user agreement, “Yahoo does not rent, sell, or share personal information about you with other people or nonaffiliated companies except to provide products or services you’ve requested, when we have your permission. ” Therefore, if Justin wanting to share his information with his parents, then he would have gave them access to his account. “i should get going oh by the way i am saveing all of the e-mails that i get from everyon. “They really brighten my day i love you and i will talk to you soon! ” LOVEYOUALL LOTS!!! JUSTIN These are some of the emails that Justin sent to his father, John Ellsworth. John will hold these words close to his heart. John pleaded with Yahoo to release the email to his family to fulfill the family wishes of “reading, seeing, and knowing the young man’s last words, pictures and thoughts from the front lines of Iraq. ” “I want to be able to remember him in his words. I know he thought he was doing what he needed to do.
I want to have that for the future,” John said. “It’s the last thing I have of my son. ” Where should we put the most emphasis, Justin’s family memory or protecting the privacy of others? Justin’s account not only contains emails to his parents but to other also. If Yahoo had giving up the emails willingly to Justin’s parents, they would be violating the Justin privacy and those who he was corresponding with. After examining each party involved it clearly shows that Yahoo would gain the most of the email because the privacy of all is just as important as one.
Deontological considerations access a person rights and duty associated with that right. Yahoo and Justin entered into a contract once Justin agreed to the terms and condition set forth by Yahoo in its user agreement therefore creating a contractual right. “Yahoo! has a contractual obligation to Justin and all e-mail subscribers to protect their confidentiality and privacy — dead or alive (Jennifer Chamber/ the Detroit News). ” When Yahoo declined Justin’s parent’s access to his account they were fulfilling their obligation that they had with Justin.
Many were quick to judge Yahoo without fully examining the situation. Frank McNelis, a former Air Force officer said, “Yahoo! could make an exception if it wanted to in this case…” “I think it’s outrageous,” he said. Justin had a part in the contractual agreement also. Yahoo Terms of Service agreement states, “You are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of the password and account…” Once Justin accepted those terms, he was obligated to carry out his role in the TOS. The TOS might have played a part in Justin not giving his parents access to his account or maybe he just wanted his privacy.
Looking at the deontological aspect of this situation, Yahoo was right to decline the family assess to Justin Ellsworth’s email account. Decided who was right in the case, brought up some challenges that had to be worked through in order to make the correct moral decision. Morally it was wrong of the court to force Yahoo to give up Justin’s emails to his parents. Yahoo is bound to protect their user privacy. The contractual right that Yahoo shared with Justin enabled them to make the moral decision.
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