After a 15-year-old died under mysterious circumstances, her mother sought to gain access to her Facebook account, as a means of helping her understand what happened, and whether there were any further steps she could take to attend to her legacy or, if necessary, bring those responsible to justice.
Facebook refused and the mother sued, won, and lost on appeal. Undaunted, she is suing again.
The trail, in a Berlin court, begins Tuesday, following a two-week period introduced by the judge for the two sides to attempt to reach an agreement outside of the courts.
The current trial is the result of a successful appeal filed by the social media giant after a German judge ruled in December 2015 that Facebook must give the mother access to her daughter's account, as she was a minor at the time of her death.
In their original 2015 ruling, the judge declared that analog and digital possessions of a minor must be treated in the same fashion, to avoid a situation in which "letters and diaries were inheritable independent of their content, but e-mails and private Facebook posts were not," according to Deutsche Welle.
The judge stated that allowing parents access to a deceased child's social media accounts is not a violation of a minor's personal rights, as parents are encouraged to act as stewards for their minor children.
But Facebook stonewalled, and fought the ruling in appeal, claiming that users who had interacted with the deceased would see their privacy rights violated if anyone other than the original user was permitted to view their posts.
Facebook observed that it currently offers three options to address incidences of a user's untimely death: a full delete of the account per the previous order of the user (after a user's death has been confirmed by at least three adults); "Remembering" (which changes social media profile information and allows users to make in memoriam posts but permanently blocks the deceased's account from any login); and "Legacy Contact" (similar to the executor of a will but, as minors cannot choose this Facebook option, it would not have been of any help to the mother).
None of the options presented by the social media giant allow for the mother to gain access to the information contained within her deceased minor daughter's Facebook account.
Observations concerning Facebook's compliance with NSA, CIA and FBI requests for access to private data in cases of criminal behavior and acts of terrorism point to a double standard with regard to the mother's request.
According to reports, Germany's privacy laws are likely to support the position of the social media giant.