Family upset that Apple won’t unlock dead son’s iPad

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iPad Pro doesn't have the latest Touch ID, but it doesn't matter.
Apple faces an ethical dilemma with the family's request.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

A family whose deceased 18-year-old son left his last wishes on his personal iPad have criticized Apple for not unlocking the device for them.

Liam Wright from the U.K. died of bone cancer in December. He reportedly recorded his last wishes on his iPad because he found it too difficult to have the conversation with his family.

However, when he passed away, his family were unable to gain access to his iPad, and therefore had to have his funeral service without knowing that he had wanted.

According to Liam’s sister Kerry Lamb, they tried to gain access to the locked iPad, but “hit a brick wall” with Apple, who she says is being “ridiculous” by not helping them access the tablet. When pressed, Apple said it wouldn’t unlock the iPad unless it had a death certificate and solicitor’s letter. When these were sent, the company then claimed the family had not sent the correct information, and now wants a court order.

In addition to notes about his wishes after death, Liam Wright reportedly had numerous videos and photos stored on his Apple device, which the family would like to access.

An ethical dilemma

As undoubtedly sad as it is for the family, it’s another example of a tough ethical dilemma for Apple to navigate with its strong pro-privacy stance. It’s not the first time that Apple has faced a similar quandary. Last year, a father wrote to Tim Cook, begging him to unlock his dead 13-year-old son’s iPhone so that he could retrieve photos stored on it.

In that case, Apple’s technical staff expressed sympathy, but said there was nothing they were able to do.

While you can argue about whether Apple should try and do more to unlock devices, it’s yet another reminder of the importance of making arrangements for how your family will be able to access your devices, various online accounts, etc. in the event that you were to pass away.

Let’s hope this case can somehow be solved to everyone’s satisfaction.

Via: Daily Mail

  • babilon

    Apple is ok. This was no accident, but cancer. The son had enough time to give them a password. He did not – it means he did not want to.

    • BlackHawkRider .

      “Liam Wright from the U.K. died of bone cancer in December. He reportedly recorded his last wishes on his iPad because he found it too difficult to have the conversation with his family.”

      If he didn’t want them in his iPad, then what the hell is the point of him recording his last wishes?

      • Sergii Duka

        Are you sure he addressed his wishes to his family? I’m not sure. And I don’t really want Apple to unlock my phone for anyone basing on a guess that I would probably want to.

      • BlackHawkRider .

        First of all, it was an iPad not an iPhone. Second, if I was dead, I could care less if a family member wanted to unlock my devices. It is not like I have nude pictures stored on it anyways.

        My problem with this is that Apple stated that it will not unlock the iPad unless it received a “death certificate and solicitor’s letter”. When the family provided the required documents, Apple stated that “the family had not sent the correct information, and now wants a court order”. If they didn’t send the correct info, then fine. Explain to the family what they were missing or what was incorrect but why even mention a court order???

      • Sergii Duka

        If you have the same Apple account on both iPad and iPhone like most people do, it doesn’t matter what device to unlock, you’ll have access to all content backed up in the iCloud. And I have nude pictures on my phone because I bought it and I don’t want to be paranoid about saving what I want on my device. BTW, you signed an EULA with Apple about this, if you forgot.

        I totally understand Apple. They have a lot of competitors around the globe who don’t ever unlock their devices (good luck with forcing Koreans to do that, for example). And, of course, if they start to do it, Samsung will advertise the very next day that their devices are protected from being unlocked by an order from the US government. It’s a huge leverage.

      • JF

        Apple cannot unlock devices locked with a passcode. And they shouldn’t. It has been discussed before, during the FBI case; they would need to alter iOS in order to access data, which is a no-no as this would put every iPhone in the world in possible danger. With the latest iPhones and iOS versions I think it’s even closer to impossible to access data of a passcode locked device.

        Apple can remove iCloud activation lock (allowing you to erase and re-use a device associated with a person’s Apple ID), or possibly recover iCloud data (photos, documents), if the user had selected to store data in the cloud. I once wanted to reset a dead relative’s device and Apple requested a court order. I gave up because the court order would cost more than the device itself (old iPhone model). I didn’t care about the data.

        This is a sad story, but Apple cannot be the judge when it comes to personal data. They delegate that role to the state. If a court decides you can access a dead person’s data (iCloud), you will. It’s a shame it costs so much, but again, that’s not Apple’s problem.

    • Gest2016

      My partner died after 12 years of cancer. So no surprises. I still didn’t have his password when he passed, nobody really wants to believe their partner is dying. It was nobody’s fault but my own, and eventually I was able to piece together his password by talking to his sister. So word of advice to all: Get your loved one’s passwords. And if they don;t share them with you, perhaps they aren’t a loved one? Life is short and unpredictable, and when someone dies their digital footprint is one of the biggest things they leave behind.

  • Orage42

    It’s not on Apple. It’s on each user to give access to who they want to.

    LastPass has a nice emergency system for this – you can add contacts and set a timer before they get access, which can be set to anything from immediate to 30 days.

    When the emergency contact requests access, it sends an email to the user asking if they’d like to decline the access. If the “timer” is reached without being declined by the user, full access if granted to the emergency contact.

  • leart

    rules are rules… respect for apple

  • Paul R.

    Please. All the lemmings come pouring out for Crapple. They had a death certificate AND letter. Give me a break. Unlock the crappy ipad! Sheep, that’s what you are, sheep. Only to be led.

    • HammerOfTruth

      Wait till uncle Donald wants access to your device. Is that ok too??

      • BlackHawkRider .

        First of all, “uncle Donald” is not a f*cking family member of the decease. If it was his wife, son, or daughter who died, then why the f*ck not? Second, Apple already stated they wanted the two documents in order to unlock the iPad. Family of decease sent them the docs but Apple still refuse to unlock the device; reason being “family had not sent the correct information”.

    • James Ryan

      The information provided may not have included the information expected. You’ve only go the families side of the story. The other side of the story is this. The owner of the iPad locked it. If he wanted other people to have access to it he would have unlocked it or given them the password. It’s not up to Apple to second guess their clients wishes.

  • soggynode

    I would agree with denying access except in the case of a minor. Once my kids turn 18 I don’t expect to have access to their accounts or devices and in fact do not. Insurance, banking and various online accounts all sent me notices prior to my daughter turning 18 stating I will no longer have access. I’m fine with that. As a parent though I do feel it’s my right to have access to their devices and accounts if they are a minor, I am their legal guardian, have proof of such and ask for access in the proper way.

  • disqus_raAycvFxUp

    I honestly don’t see the problem here. It’s his device, and the family did not have access to it for a reason. Once Apple unlocks one device, they have to unlock thousands upon thousands of devices. Our info is private for a reason and Apple respects that. People don’t realize what they are asking for. If we lose our privacy, then what do we have left?

    • BlackHawkRider .

      your privacy is useless when you are dead. Why the hell would you still care about it?

      • disqus_raAycvFxUp

        This isn’t a ‘dead vs. alive’ thing. This is a ‘protect your right to privacy at all times’ thing. My family does not have the passwords to my devices accounts right now, so why would I want them to have access to them when I’m dead?

      • BlackHawkRider .

        you don’t want your parents to know about your secret porn stash when you are dead? You are no fun at all.

  • glibrodo glibrodo

    I don’t want my parents to see the “sex tapes” I made.

    • BlackHawkRider .

      Finally!! A person gives a sensible reason for not wanting family members in your device after death.

  • Frank Malloy

    And they won’t unlock a dead terrorist’s phone in San Bernardino either.

    I’m sure they had a death certificate.

    • BlackHawkRider .

      rather than a death certificated, they simply brought a warranty. Apple still refused, so Apple asking for court order is simply wasting the family’s time.