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Apple Refuses To Unlock Bequeathed iPad 465

mrspoonsi writes "A man whose mother bequeathed her iPad to her family in her will says Apple's security rules are too restrictive. Since her death, they have been unable to unlock the device, despite providing Apple with copies of her will, death certificate and solicitor's letter. After her death, they discovered they did not know her Apple ID and password, but were asked to provide written consent for the device to be unlocked. Mr Grant said: 'We obviously couldn't get written permission because mum had died. So my brother has been back and forth with Apple, they're asking for some kind of proof that he can have the iPad. We've provided the death certificate, will and solicitor's letter but it wasn't enough. They've now asked for a court order to prove that mum was the owner of the iPad and the iTunes account.'"
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Apple Refuses To Unlock Bequeathed iPad

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  • They're stalling (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lisias ( 447563 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @01:46AM (#46416277) Homepage Journal

    Apple will do whatever it will takes to demove the family from getting the account access for the following reaons:

    1) They want *new* account to inflate the user base.

    2) By stalling the request increases the chance that the family decides it's not worth the pain.

    3) They don't want to deal with similar cases in the future - there's no money on it. So it's important to them to avoid precedences.

    Welcome to this brave new world, where companies decides what you own and the rights you have on it.

  • Disguisting! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @01:48AM (#46416281) Journal
    How dare that consumer act as though Apple's intellectual property was something she could just 'bequeath' because she's all dead or some sentimental rubbish? She should be grateful that they deigned to permit her a limited license!
  • by kylemonger ( 686302 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @01:48AM (#46416283)
    ... but didn't bequeath all her pr0n. The family could take ownership of the device by just wiping it. The stuff downloaded onto it is a different matter, and I think Apple is doing right by not unlocking it.
  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <> on Thursday March 06, 2014 @01:51AM (#46416297) Journal

    Apple is right, your mother gave you the iPad, not the data on it.

    The data does not belong to Apple.

    The iPad does not belong to Apple.

    Apple should have no skin in this game, they don't own any part of it.

  • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @01:59AM (#46416333)

    Unless she gave it away elsewhere, her family owns all of her former property. It doesn't matter if she explicitly gave it to them or not, so long as she didn't explicitly give it elsewhere.

  • by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @02:04AM (#46416355)
    By their request for proof, they have clearly indicated that they do in fact have that ability. Otherwise they'd have started and ended the conversation with a simple, "I'm sorry, but we do not have the capability to compromise any users security. Without the login information or passwords we are unable to assist you.". Or something equivalent.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06, 2014 @02:16AM (#46416401)

    This isn't true at all.

    From TFA: "In her will she indicated that her estate was to be split between her five boys". This was probably by way of an ordinary residuary gift clause such as 'I give, devise and bequeth the rest and residue of my estate wheresoever situate equally as tenants in common to those of my five children named A, B, C, D, and Timmy who survive me.'

    By such a clause, the whole of the estate not specifically given to someone else earlier in the will goes to the five children; this would include the pr0n on the device. As to the distribution between the sons (from TFA there is agreement that only the one son will get the whole of the ipad), this is not improper and not uncommon when distributing items of property because, in essence, you can't really split an ipad or a chair or a bible or a painting of jesus riding a dinosaur five ways. (at the very least, you can't physically split them five ways and expect them to keep their - sentimental or monetary - value).

    Further, I don't really understand the issue here. From the time of death, the executor of a deceased estate (as a general rule) has all the functions and powers necessary to deal with the assets forming the estate in effect as though they were the deceased. This includes, for example, carrying on (with some exceptions) court proceedings or carrying on the deceased's business.

    I can't see any reason why Apple should not accept a letter from the executor (or an executor if there is more than one) authorising them to deal with the account as though that letter had been sent by the deceased herself. It seems to me that it would be open to the executors to commence proceedings seeking declarations from a Court with jurisdiction to that effect and, if Apple were my clients, I would be advising them to be very carefully consider their basis for defending those proceedings.

    -AC Lawyer.

    P.S. I'd spell and grammar check this but I'm AC ;)

  • Re:Good. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @02:23AM (#46416427)
    So if my father leaves me his safety deposit box, I get the box, but not the contents? I think you are wrong, an old woman wouldn't have thought anyone would separate them. That you understand the difference doesn't make it as obvious as you declare.
  • by wickerprints ( 1094741 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @02:29AM (#46416435)

    Fundamentally, I see this as a security issue. If the deceased wanted someone to have the data on the iPad, she should have provided the means to have access to that data. You can't just bequeath it in a will and then expect everyone else to sort it out after you're gone. That's inconsiderate.

    It's also hypocritical to hold a company up to high standards for maintaining security and user privacy, and then at the same time blame them for not just rolling over and handing over the means to decrypt that information. It's not Apple's responsibility to give the family that ability, but the owner of that content. If I have years of personal photos that I've encrypted and bequeathed to someone, I'm sure as hell not going to just say, "here, you get this hard drive full of encrypted memories, but good luck decrypting it--I'm taking the decryption keys to my grave." That's stupid.

    Even if Apple can unlock that data and eventually does so, think about how that might look to some people, who would NOT want their heirs/family/descendants to have the means to rummage through their personal data. You see this happen all the time--families of the deceased try to weasel their way into secrets and intimate histories of those who died. If all it might take is some lawyers and potentially dubious documentation to get around a dead person's privacy, then I would think twice about leaving any personal data behind.

  • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <> on Thursday March 06, 2014 @02:29AM (#46416437)

    Did she bequeath the iPad or the apps/data on the iPad and the iTunes account to go with it? I'm pretty sure that even if the device is locked, that you can still do a factory reset on it and then have access to the iPad. Granted you would lose all the apps and data on the device, but you would still have the device to use as you wish.

    If she bequeathed the iTunes account, then the account email and password should have been in the will or related documents, if not, then it's reasonable to assume she just left the hardware which you can reset and then have full use of.

    No, it was just the iPad.

    The problem is that since iOS7, Apple implemented a kill switch called "Activation Lock" in an attempt to slow down the theft of the devices - with it, the owner can remotely wipe the device, and more importantly, that device cannot be used by anyone else, thus ensuring that any stolen iPads, iPhones, etc. are rendered worthless.

    What likely happened is just that - the iPad got locked and is right now, effectively worthless.

    Of course, Apple has to be careful too - they can't really offer a way to unlock those devices because it's really a backdoor to Activation Lock and a way for criminals to well, steal your device and then cry to Apple to unlock it saying it belonged to their parents so they could resell it as more than just scrap.

    It's really one of those catch-22 situations - Apple can't contact the original owner to verify if that iPad really belongs to them and they're not just some criminal looking to change their $0 iPad into a $400 iPad on the stolen goods market. And they can't just take those documents because well, the family could come back again next week with another stolen iPad and do the same thing.

    And no, Activation Lock is practically impossible to defeat - if you reset it, it'll ask for the Apple ID credentials before you can proceed. If you get an unlocked one and try to restore it (with Find my iThing on), iTunes refuses to do it until you turn it off (which requires the password). If you force DFU and reload, it won't work until you re=login again, etc.

    It's one of those things - what can Apple do? Remember the goal is to make the illegally acquired resale value zero because a user buying it can't do anything with it. And any way for Apple to help this family can be exploited (hell, do you KNOW that the iPad they got bequeathed wasn't stolen?). Apple requiring a court order basically means the courts will have to ascertain the identity of everyone and be enough of a pain that even a thief probably won't go through that effort. Certainly not one who wants to be identified should the iThing really be stolen.

    They may have a chain of evidence though - the store receipt where the iPad was purchased on a credit card, a credit card bill with the charge on it and the billing name and address which can be compared against their Apple ID account, a death certificate with the same name and address on it, a will with the same name and address, and the iPad, whose serial number will match that on the receipt. Woe be to those who bought it at a store who doesn't record serial numbers, though!

  • by bloodhawk ( 813939 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @02:39AM (#46416469)
    Everything you say is actually true EXCEPT, this isn't that families problem, it is apples. When you die your worldly possessions go to your family or anyone else you deem fit to bequeath them too. It is legal and quite proper, Their is no catch 22, Apple have no legal standing here as a properly written will IS a legal document with the authority to transfer ownership, it is not up to the family to provide further proof, if apple is concerned it is on them to provide proof that this particular item was stolen. I hope Apple get their arses sued off.
  • Re:Serial number (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bloodhawk ( 813939 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @02:42AM (#46416489)
    Why was that marked insightful? You don't put the VIN number for the cars you own in your will either, nor do you put the serial numbers from each electrical appliance, watch or other worldly possessions. Why is it suddenly that this is on the family to prove for this particular type of device, A Will is a legal document, if Apple thinks the item might be stolen then it is on Apple to prove it, not the family.
  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @02:56AM (#46416537)

    It's only been a year or so since Mat Honan got all his Amazon, Google, and Apple data wiped because someone was able to trick their way into his accounts. Apple got castigated over that, and implemented a lot of extra security to try to prevent that sort of thing from happening again. Well, guess what? You can't have it both ways. One way or the other, there will be problematic edge cases - and this sort of thing is one of them.

  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @02:56AM (#46416541)

    Apple is right, your mother gave you the iPad, not the data on it.

    The data does not belong to Apple.

    The iPad does not belong to Apple.

    Apple should have no skin in this game, they don't own any part of it.

    Actually, the box says "Your Apple iPad" inferring that Apple still own it and you're just using it. Besides this, your soul is the minimum price for any apple product. The bequeathed couldn't inherit this agreement as the agreement was for his grandmothers soul, he'll need to bequeath his soul to Apple (signed in blood, in triplicate) before they can do anything.

    Jokes aside here, Apple is just being a dick, which is really what we can expect from Apple. The inheritor is legally entitled to the data on that device (as they would to any other intellectual properties like writings, patents and works of art created by the deceased) and Apple have the capacity to unlock the device (which is scary enough on its own) but refuse to do so because, because, shut up, thats why.

    Also this is in the UK, consumer protection will not be kind to Apple.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06, 2014 @03:16AM (#46416605)

    Welcome to this brave new world, where companies decides what you own and the rights you have on it.

    Which is why you don't purchase hardware that you don't have full control over or content that you can't shift into a format that you control. This is why I don't own any Apple products, no respect for users.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06, 2014 @03:36AM (#46416679)

    Cut the anti-capitalist crap. The device is keeping their late mother's data secure, as it was designed to do, and demanded by customers. Everything is working exactly as it should; don't be so butthurt and entitled when it's inconvenient. This is how you want[ed] it.

  • Apple and the law (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Erik WP ( 3406995 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @04:20AM (#46416829)
    I detest Apple but I think they have a point here. If you buy an iPad, you get ownership and the right to transfer the ownership of that iPad. However, when you buy an app, you buy a personal right to use the app. This right is not transferable. If it was, there would be a lively secondary market in apps. The fact that the owner dies does not make the apps transferable either. I assume the will only mentions transference of ownership of the iPad (which is valid) and maybe the apps (which is invalid). If the will doesn't mention other data, they will need a court order. Apple just wants to protect itself but as usual does it in their own arrogant and insensitive way.
  • by u38cg ( 607297 ) <> on Thursday March 06, 2014 @05:20AM (#46417085) Homepage
    No, you're talking nonsense. TFA doesn't mention whether probate has been granted but in the UK only the smallest of estates do not require probate and usually banks require a grant anyway to administer accounts. Once probate has been granted there is no reason for anyone not to follow the executor's instructions, and a solicitor's letter stating a grant has been given should be sufficient. This is simply Apple being dicks to try and discourage people from doing this.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06, 2014 @05:23AM (#46417103)

    NO, but they are required to provide a new set of keys to the new owner with legal document showing transfer of ownership

    And yet here you sit bitching about the fact that Apple has asked this family for legal documents proving ownership of the iPad.

  • by immaterial ( 1520413 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @05:27AM (#46417133)

    No, locking someone's device without their consent is a bug. It shouldn't happen, and Apple is in the wrong for engineering a system which locks the device automatically without the owners's consent.

    It's pretty simple. And yes, I know that it seemed like a good idea at the time to the idiot engineer who came up with this "solution". Lots of ideas seem good until the flaws are discovered.

    What is all this garbage? It was locked with the owner's consent. The owner unfortunately did not think to leave the keys with her bequest.

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @05:45AM (#46417229)

    Everything you say is actually true EXCEPT, this isn't that families problem, it is apples. When you die your worldly possessions go to your family or anyone else you deem fit to bequeath them too. It is legal and quite proper,

    It's not Apple's problem. The worldly possessions (the iPad) is still there, and the family has possession of it. What's been lost is information - the Apple ID and password. That's really not Apple's responsibility.

    What's happened here is like if you bought a really big, really tough safe. You use it to store some valuables, and only you know the combination. Then you die. Your will bequeaths the safe to your family. They're in physical possession of the safe, but without the combination they have no way to access what's inside or (if there's nothing valuable inside) use it to store other stuff. It's essentially useless without the combination.

    Unless there's some way for the safe manufacturer to open the safe without the combination (which would be a huge security hole), crying to them to fix the situation isn't going to help. When this sort of security is properly designed, even the manufacturer can't help. Same thing happened with the business-class Thinkpads with hard drives and BIOSes which could be password protected. If you set the BIOS boot password and forgot it, IBM's fix was to swap out the motherboard and charge you for a new motherboard (equivalent to salvaging this iPad for parts and charging the family a discounted price for a refurb iPad). If you put a password on the HDD and forgot it, that's it. Nobody could recover your data, not even IBM.

    The iTunes account and any songs/movies/ebooks/software bought on it are a different matter. Regardless of any passwords on it, Apple knows what's in the account. And being virtual goods they can be restored for just a trivial administrative cost to Apple. The real question is whether you can inherit these types of accounts. There was a hoax some years back saying Bruce Willis wanted his kids to inherit his account, but AFAIK there hasn't been any real legal precedent on whether you can actually do that. I would like to think you can inherit the songs/movies/ebooks/software just like you can inherit CDs, DVDs, books, and boxed software. But I suspect the copyright industry is going to fight tooth and nail to try to make any such licenses terminate upon death.

  • Apple == A$$holes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @06:15AM (#46417329) Homepage

    What else is new? Human interest takes a back seat to Apple's interests. I'd suggest they have no respect for the dead, but in this case, they are respecting the will of Jobs by carrying on as he would.

    (yeah yeah, troll modding here I come. He was pretty famous for being a major ass.)

  • Re:Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by GrahamCox ( 741991 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @06:30AM (#46417381) Homepage
    Actually, the box says "Your Apple iPad" inferring that Apple still own it and you're just using it.

    Disingenuous bullshit. Ford don't own your car, yet it says 'Ford' right there on the front grille!
  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <> on Thursday March 06, 2014 @08:57AM (#46417927) Homepage Journal

    If the license says "non transferable" then that's the end of the discussion.

    Not in the UK or EU. Digital sales are treated as sales, not licenses. Doesn't matter what the EULA says, if the said "buy this song" or "purchase app" then you have full consumer protection rights and full legal ownership of the copy. You can sell your legally purchased MP3s.

  • by Ronin Developer ( 67677 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @09:33AM (#46418123)

    I have read most of the comments up until now. Frankly, most seem as if they were written by a bunch of Apple haters.

    The article clearly states that while Apple acknowledges the woman is dead and the person to be the executor of her account, they require a court order and/or proof she is the rightful owner of the device. Why?

    We have no reason to doubt the the executor or the heirs that the device belonged to her. But, being unable to provide the unlock code to her iPad nor her Apple Id and associated password (which, could instantly demonstrate it was her device via their FindMyIPhone service), Apple is unwilling to unlock it. They demand further proof of ownership (or, prior ownership).


    First, there are DRM considerations. When a person uses an Apple device and "purchases" certain products through iTunes, they have a non-transferable license to use that material. Unlocking the device, without court order, could subject Apple to litigation by the owners of the DRM software.

    Let's assume that the person presenting the iDevice is the legal heir to the device (i.e. it belonged to the deceased and bequeathed to them). Apple is asking for a court order directing them to access the device and remove their legal liability for providing such access to the data on the device and the the violation of privacy. If it were a house or vault, would you not want to make sure that the person you are giving the keys has a legal right to enter the premises?

    Next, let's consider the owner has email accounts. The iDevice will, likely, automatically access those email accounts. Services such as FaceBook, Yahoo!, Hotmail, and GMail try to protect the ownership of the private content of those systems - people have a right to an expectation of privacy - even after death. It's in their terms of service. As an heir, you may or may not have a legal right to access those accounts of the deceased individual.

    Just last year, I think it was, there was a case where the family of a deceased soldier wanted access to his email. It was denied by the company until a court order was granted.

    If Apple unlocks the device and such services are accessed without human interaction (originally, the grandmother had access since she knew the code), you have just violated her privacy (dead or not). Would YOU want to be on the receiving end of a lawsuit where there was information in those private accounts that caused harm to another individual she communicated with via those email accounts? Perhaps, she had a secret life and wanted it kept that way? Maybe she was the mistress of a married man and the disclosure would bring that to light, destroy what was left of his marriage, or open him to a civil litigation? Or, maybe, even a claim against the family of the deceased woman which might go after her assets.

    We all kick and scream here about privacy. And, when a company, such as Apple ACTUALLY tries to do the right thing in protecting it, they are scorned and hated. That's why I say it sounds like most of the posts here are from Apple haters.

    Let the family produce a court order to have Apple access the device. Apple can look up the serial number (assuming she registered the device) and find the associated Apple ID. And, one would presume they could then unlock the device if in their physical possession (assuming, there isn't some master unlock command they can send). They would, legally, have to wipe the DRM material from the devices or follow other instructions in the court order. And, to keep themselves out of trouble, delete the email accounts and other apps that might automatically log in to a private system BEFORE turning it over to the Executor (unless, the court order grants them legal and civil protection).

    Pictures and documents might be stored on cloud services vs on the device itself. In that former case, I hope the family has the passwords to those services so they can access them.

    As I get older, I realize that there is a possibility I could die anytime

  • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @10:32AM (#46418577)
    I don't think that's the real crux. I think that without any sort of proof that the iPad was hers, Apple can't unlock it. My reading of it is that the will divided the estate but did not name the iPad specifically. Without an AppleID or some sort of identifying information, Apple can't know that was her iPad and not someone else's. People probably have used situations like this before to game Apple. So they want a court order that essentially absolves them from deciding that. They'll unlock it when a court tells them to.
  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @12:43PM (#46420031)

    The papers show who are the rightful inheritors of the estate, including the iPad hardware. That much is certain.

    The question of where that leaves information that is held on iCloud and/or encrypted on a device with a password is unclear. It appears she left neither the password nor specific instructions. She might have wanted the family to have access to this data after her death, but then again she might not.

    After all, if you wanted your secrets to die with you, you'd probably keep them on a device in an encrypted/password protected form.

    Seems like Apple wants a court to make that decision. Which doesn't seem like a bad thing.

  • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <> on Thursday March 06, 2014 @12:44PM (#46420045)

    I was recently the Fiduciary, or executor, or an estate where an iPad was involved. I sent a letter, as the Fiduciary, along with my appointment papers, requesting the password, in order that a proper value of the iPod could be determined, which included the data on the iPad. Apple refused. I immediately made an appointment with the Judge of the Probate, and explained the situation. She immediately sent a letter to Apple, demanding that they supply or clear the password, or be charged with contempt of court. They sent the password. Thankfully, this is not a large area, population-wise, that this could be handled quickly. I can only imagine how difficult it could be in a large city.

    And guess what? Apple is demanding that in this case!. You went to the Probate Court, the judge sent a letter to Apple (presumably confirming that the deceased owned that specific iPad and all that and to release details on the account).

    And Apple complied.

    In this case, the family is complaining they have to go to court to get a court order to get Apple to unlock it. No surprise, you ran into the same problem, which is why you went to the Court to see the judge.

    In other words, Apple is following the same procedure with this family as what you did - the Court issued an order demanding release of the account information. Apple complied. This family didn't, and Apple requested that they get the Court to do so.

    And yes, Apple is absolved or all liability should it turn out said iPad was stolen - it meant someone lied to the Court under oath and committed perjury, which generally is far worse than the few hundred bucks you get for the iPad.

"The way of the world is to praise dead saints and prosecute live ones." -- Nathaniel Howe