Apple demands widow get court order to access dead husband’s password

“A Victoria widow is outraged over Apple’s demand that she obtain a court order to retrieve her dead husband’s password so she can play games on an iPad,” Rosa Marchitelli reports for CBC News. “‘I thought it was ridiculous. I could get the pensions, I could get benefits, I could get all kinds of things from the federal government and the other government. But from Apple, I couldn’t even get a silly password. It’s nonsense,’ 72-year-old Peggy Bush told Go Public.”

MacDailyNews Take: It is nonsense, Betty, that “federal government and the other government” are so lackadaisical with your late husband’s privacy and personal data.

“Bush lost her husband David to lung cancer in August. The couple owned an iPad and an Apple computer. Bush knew the iPad’s log-in code, but didn’t know the Apple ID password,” Marchitelli reports. “So when her card game app stopped working, the family tried to reload it and realized it couldn’t be done without the password.”

“That’s when her daughter Donna Bush called Apple to ask if it could help retrieve the password or reset the account,” Marchitelli reports. “A court order can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on if a lawyer’s services are required. Peggy Bush said she couldn’t believe it either. After waiting months to get that password reset, she bought herself a laptop. It’s not an Apple MacBook.”

“That’s when the family contacted Go Public,” Marchitelli reports. “After Go Public contacted Apple, it did reach out to the Bush family and apologize for what it called a “misunderstanding,” offering to help the family solve the problem — without a court order. At the time of publication, it was working with Donna Bush to do that. Go Public asked Apple what its official policy is for customers trying to retrieve the passwords and digital information of family members who have passed away. It said it won’t comment.”

MacDailyNews Take: Apple should state its official policy for customers trying to retrieve the passwords and digital information of family members who have passed away. That might help prod users to do what they should have done already: Organize their passwords and provide the ability for the people they’d like to allow access to their accounts upon the event of their death.

The triviality of Betty’s desire to play a card game doesn’t mean squat here. Apple simply has no way of knowing for sure why customers are trying to access Apple ID passwords.

As always, to reset a forgotten Apple ID, go here: https://iforgot.apple.com/

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: Today is Martin Luther King Day in the U.S. and the markets are closed. As usual on such trading holidays, we will have limited posting today.

32 Comments

    1. Bad idea. I could get a death certificate for almost anyone. Then, armed with the death certificate, I obtain all of their passwords.

      I fully understand why Apple wants a court order — it is the only real security.

      1. The answer that Apple is right and it’s too bad for everyone who just lost a loved one is totally unacceptable. That is not customer service and it is not in the spirit of the Apple way.

        The assumption behind not giving Apple IDs out without a court order is that every family has thought this through. Very bad assumption! Last year a close neighbor died suddenly and he left his wife completely unprepared to handle even the most basic household expenses. The banks, mortgage company, and utility companies helped.

        Apple should too – and not just on a case by case basis. They need to develop a long term policy with a reasonable verification process. Apple ignores life changing events like this at its peril. Ignoring it is a good way to piss people off really fast and perhaps irrevocably.

        1. The majority of perspectives and voting responses on this subject are truly perplexing. Some are so completely off the deep end they sound like a bunch of techno weeny Goobers who got their panties wrapped around the supremacy of absolute data protection to the exclusion of all else and common sense. They are so caught up in the current privacy/encryption battles that they forgot the human part of the equation. Others appear to be too young to have contemplated their own mortality and what it might mean for those left behind. A little self awareness and perspective might be in order for the younger set for they are wide of the mark.

    2. Just because he’s dead doesn’t mean he wanted her to access his most personal data. No, it’s sad, but Apple’s right on this. Lung cancer doesn’t just hit one day and strike you down. He had time to prepare. He probably had a will, a list of online banking passwords, keys to the safe deposit box, and so on, but did NOT decide to leave his Apple ID password with his wife. There was probably a reason. Maybe he was having an affair. Maybe he had a guilty pleasure for Candy Crush and was on level 590 and it was worth hiding everything else to save her from knowing that. Who knows. But he decided not to let her access his account.

        1. Whether this gentleman has been married or not is irrelevant. Apple does not know the family’s situation and cannot make assumptions. They must stand firm with their security, regardless of the situation. If anyone can make up a sob story and get away with obtaining passwords, then the world would be in big trouble. We already have hundreds of issues a day with identity theft, and Apple can’t afford more issues with security.

          I know that when I pass away, whatever is on my iPhone is MY business, and I don’t want my family to access it.

          1. Despite the opposition voiced by others on this subject, I agree with you, Justin. Privacy policies are not secure if they have a simple backdoor. For those who sympathize with the widow, I understand. I do, too. But I am also glad that Apple is taking this situation seriously. The Apple ID is a contract between Apple and the person who signed up for it. I hope that you read it. And it is not up to Apple to unilaterally choose to violate the terms of that contract.

            That said, this is an issue that has been around for years and Apple needs to develop a public policy.

    3. She should be able to do a password reset on the shared laptop they own or the iPad itself. My guess is he didn’t delete the email account he used to setup the Apple ID.

  1. I could understand it with a death certificate, but a court order seems a bit much. Does it have anything to do with who owns content purchased digitally? Can you just transfer it or is there some hidden caveat? Didn’t Bruce Willis have a thing about not being able to inherit digital content?

  2. What is not addressed in this summary and perhaps in the full article is what government imposed privacy regulations Apple is subject to. If anything like the rule-bound anal EU rules about just about anything, perhaps Apple was required by law to give the reply they gave. Who knows?

  3. When an estate goes through probate, most probate courts issue some official document showing that the executor/executrix has authority over the estate, like letters testamentary. This official document is essentially a “court order,” which should be sufficient authority for most entities, like banks, etc., to grant access to the deceased person’s assets. This lady would havehad such a document issued in any case, and I feel certain that Apple would have accepted this as her authority over her late husband’s account. So I don’t know why she’s making such a big deal out of this.

    1. Whew!

      I’m glad someone finally said this. (And someone else agreed. And all positive votes.)

      With that all said, Apple should have their stuff in order enough to have asked for Letters Testamentary rather than a court order. LT should be what was used with all of those government agencies. (Sorry, MDN, but your first Take there makes the likely wrong assumption that this wasn’t the case.) And, yes, the widow might have recognized that this would work with Apple, too, but it sounds like Apple’s request was for a court order. Period. Don’t call back without one. If that’s true, Apple is at (some) fault.

      There are usually easy legal solutions. Letters Testamentary are usually that solution.

  4. this is customary and appropriate for Apple to require this authorization. Apple doesn’t know how their marriage was constructed, nor on what terms they related. if there was provocative information in the deceased’s iCloud email inbox, it could conceivably expose Apple to liability.

  5. Lady, I am sorry for your lost, but if he didn’t give you his password may be he had a reason.
    A password is part of the heritage because it protects something owned by the password holder, so if he didn’t leave you his password is because he didn’t wanted you to have it.

  6. What a kerfuffle! Over a card game? All this drama! All this hair-pulling! Quick Gertrude get me my smelling salts!

    I never would’ve entertained such a large slice of crazy.
    Factory restore the iPad. Start your own Apple ID. Go pay the $2 for the game and install it. Done.

    To go through this, I smell something fishy. There’s something on that iPad she desperately wants, like the Swiss bank account number with the $3M in it.

      1. Not the dreaded Activation Lock! That would mean somebody who knew the passcode, used Find My Phone or the iCloud site to get to the iPad, and issue the Lost Mode command. The plot gets thicker, the trail of clues get more sordid.

        Did the old man enable the Self Destruct Sequence by turning on the Wipe Data after 10 failed password attempts and she’s on 9th attempt? Another confounding bit?

        I found the originating article and nothing of AL was mentioned there, only Apple’s advice I came up with off the top of my head reset, reload, buy the game.

        There must be a Swiss Bank Account number on it. As Judge Doody wrote below, “all will soon be revealed.”

  7. I’m assuming UK Law has something similar, but in the US this can be mitigated by acquiring power of attorney over a spouse that has become terminally ill. Some people wrongfully assume that being married to someone automatically gives them power of attorney, but this is simply not the case. You can do it quickly and cheaply with some online services.

  8. Apple is requiring a court order. Journalist misconstrues court order into some onerous draconian (two of my favorite adjectives) plot by Apple. Grieving csutomer is left uninformed.

    She needs a court order in the form of a death certificate. A deasth certificate is in fact a court order.

    As my buddy Magic Eight Ball says, “all will soon be revealed.

  9. Of course everyone should make sure that—in the event that they die unexpectedly—all their user names and passwords will be available to their loved ones. But Apple’s attitude is still totally reprehensible. Disgusting and unacceptable. They should be ashamed of themselves.

  10. “A court order can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on if a lawyer’s services are required. Peggy Bush said she couldn’t believe it either. After waiting months to get that password reset..”

    uh…maybe just spring for the $5 or so that the game cost. I understand that she may not have a lot of cash, but I think she could afford it.

    Of course, there could be other apps or items to which she wants access that are not mentioned in the article.

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