Should Justin Ellsworth's Parents Have Been Given Access to His Email?

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Date Submitted: 08/22/2011 05:56 PM

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Should Justin Ellsworth's Parents have been given access to his email? Justin Ellsworth was a US Marine killed in Iraq. After his death, his parents wanted access to his emails. Yahoo, his email service provided declined their request stating that their privacy policy prohibited them from disclosing the contents of his email to anyone.


Utilitarian ethics is the idea that the moral worth of an action is determined solely by its utility in providing happiness or pleasure as summed among all sentient beings. In laymen’s terms it means that the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome or the greater good for the greatest amount of people. While doing research into utilitarian ethics, I discovered there are many different types of utilitarian ethics, rule utilitarianism, act utilitarianism, two-level utilitarianism, motive utilitarianism, negative utilitarianism, average utilitarianism, and total utilitarianism. Although there are a lot of different types of utilitarian ethics, I am looking at this using rule and act utilitarian.

Act utilitarianism states that, when faced with a choice, we must first consider the likely consequences of potential actions and, from that, choose to do what we believe will generate most pleasure. On the other hand rule utilitarian, one begins by looking at potential rules of action. To determine whether a rule should be followed, one looks at what would happen if it were constantly followed. If adherence to the rule produces more happiness than otherwise, it is a rule that morally must be followed at all times.

Using act utilitarian ethics, if Yahoo keeps a hold of Justin’s emails, it would upset his parents, thus not providing the most pleasure. Therefore giving them a copy of all the emails would provide his parents the most pleasure and that would be the better choice. Using rule utilitarian ethics we must look at Yahoo’s privacy policy. It states that its accounts are...