Seattle, WA — Byron Tate is grieving the murder of his wife, Lori, all while battling Apple - which won’t provide him the password to her iCloud account.
“She was an amazing artist, had an incredible eye. She was without a doubt the most loving person I’ve ever known,” says Byron. “I feel like I’ve lost a good portion of her and our family’s earlier history without that access.”
In March, Lori was with her 13-year-old son in the parking lot of a Fred Meyer in Ballard when police say a man and a woman attempted to snatch her purse. Detectives say the suspects then hit her with a truck. She died two days later.
“My affectionate term for her was my sweet angel. She was everything to me,” says Byron. “She was a really brilliant photographer and she had a lot of just brilliant photographs that would remind me of things that made her happy.”
Lori kept most of the pictures in her iCloud account. After her passing, Byron wanted to see and share them, but he didn’t have her password. He asked Apple for it and the company refused to provide it.
“The impression I get is that it’s almost like they’re treating my property as if it’s theirs, and I’m just really fortunate that I have the opportunity to perhaps look at it someday,” says Byron.
Byron says that when he first contacted Apple, the company wanted to make sure he wasn’t involved with the murder.
“This is after the suspects were already arrested and imprisoned. They already have been arraigned by that time,” he says.
Apple’s requests for information continued, so Byron got his lawyers involved. It’s been a six month fight.
“It seems like this is clearly not a priority for them. It’s not something they, perhaps, have given a lot of thought to,” says Byron.
We contacted Apple. A company representative pointed us to their website, which says:
“Once the court order is received, we will help as much as possible to grant access to the personal information or devices you are requesting.”
Byron provided that in August. Still, no access.
Federal and state privacy laws appear to be at issue here. Laws now state that the executor of an estate needs prior permission from the deceased to get that information. For example, a provision in the will that outlines who gets access - and how much.
Or, the executor has to prove access to digital accounts are needed to administer the estate.
“Having to deal with this on top of everything else, it’s just been frustrating,” says Byron.
Byron is still fighting for Lori’s information. But he wants us to tell his story.
Because he wants others to be ready for the fight to access the digital memories of their loved ones.
“Undoubtedly the best 16 years of my life,” says Byron. “She definitely taught me how to love. I am a far better man today because of her.”
To make things easier on your loved ones, attorneys recommend thinking about what online accounts you may want to be accessed after your death - and what accounts they may need to access to settle your estate. You can write in your will who should have access, how much they should have, and for which accounts. For the easiest, broadest access, leave detailed instructions on how to access your accounts and files.
You may also consider writing a simple letter outlining your wishes, or creating a document with your account log-ins and passwords that you can leave for your family.
If you want to protect your online privacy after death, consult with a lawyer.