Life and the memories that come from it are something many people like to savor and save. These days those memories are often saved on smartphones, tablets, and computers, protected by passwords and security questions.
Throughout nearly 32 years of marriage, Rick Davis and his late wife, Vicki, shared plenty of memories. Davis of Ypsilanti said he will never find anyone like her.
"She just loved life," he said. "She was just the best."
Vicki died last June in 2014 after a long illness. During the times she could not sleep, she would spend much of her time on her Apple iPad. After she passed, Davis wanted to unlock any memories that might have been saved in that device.
"That's why I want it, because it's part of her," he said.
The problem? He didn't know her password for the iPad, and he couldn't bypass the security questions no matter how hard he tried.
"One was her best friend growing up," he said. "It could have been Cindy. It could have been Karen."
Davis called Apple for help. Immediately, the company raised privacy concerns. Davis was told to send a marriage certificate and a death certificate to be granted access to the iPad. After providing that documentation, Davis was told he needed the original receipt.
"I just said, 'You have to be kidding me,'" he said. "Everybody keeps saying they're going to help me and nobody helps me."
Apple then told him that he would need a court order.
"I cannot be the only one in the world that lost a spouse that didn't know a password," he told Ruth to the Rescue.
Balancing Privacy and Access
Davis is not alone. Problems surrounding so-called digital assets left behind by loved ones are quite common.
"What we have is users who have an expectation of privacy not only in their existing online communications, but for that privacy to carry through in the afterlife," said Carl Szabo, policy counsel at NetChoice, an association of e-commerce businesses.
The Geek Squad at Best Buy is often asked to help unlock memories that people are looking to save.
"It can be heartbreaking when someone is at that point, if not even in tears, at the counter discussing these things with you and you really have no resources available to help them," said Aaron Somes, of Best Buy.
Ruth to the Rescue contacted Apple on Davis' behalf, but the company continues to tell Davis that he would need a court order. Davis said what happened next surprised him. He admits he flippantly asked an Apple representative what would happen if the company wiped away then data, then could he have access??
"I never wanted that to happen and he knew I didn't want that to happen," said Davis.
Ruth to the Rescue cannot confirm what happened during that conversation, or what the Apple representative understood, but our cameras were there as Davis finally logged into his wife's iPad. Apple provided the instructions, but the device was wiped clean.
"Well, like I said, it's bittersweet. I guess because now I know it's gone," Davis said.
Apple told Ruth to the Rescue it cannot comment on its dealing with individual customers.
If you have any questions about accessing an Apple device, you should contact customer service for guidance.