There may be a problem with Apple’s Digital Legacy feature

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Despite a family following Apple’s Digital Legacy instructions, a “mistake” meant the company wouldn’t unlock an iPhone after its owner died — until the media got involved.

Apple’s Digital Legacy would mean there’s an easy transition when a person dies and their family wants access to their data or their device. “We deeply sympathize with the bereaved and try to help as much and as quickly as possible with requests,” Apple’s support document says.

However, according to Massachusetts affiliate station ABC WCVB NewsCenter 5A Massachusetts family was denied access to their late mother’s iPhone.

“When I found [Digital Legacy]I thought it was a great idea so I could set it up and kind of have a smoother transition,” said Roger Goodman, the late woman’s son. “The way we activated legacy status was filing of a death certificate, filing the power of attorney my mother assigned me to have control over other documents, and we also filed the actual will.

These are all steps Apple is asking for, but Goodman says the company initially flatly refused to unlock the iPhone.

“We can’t reset the phone. Period,” Goodman told Apple customer service. “There was no reason, no reasoning [they] gave.”

The family then tried other ways to reach Apple, including online chats, more phone calls, and even a visit to an Apple Store. In all cases, they were denied entry.

Apple ID problem

Reportedly, the problem centers on a repeated error message stating “Apple ID is not valid or not supported.” Goodman and his family suspect that activating the Digital Legacy program effectively deactivated their late mother’s Apple ID.

According to WCVB, deactivating her Apple ID meant that the device password could not be reset and the phone would not be wiped. This Activation Lock is intended to prevent stolen devices from being easily wiped and should be disabled automatically when the Digital Legacy process begins.

“Someone hasn’t really thought about the logistics of what happens when someone dies and what happens when they deactivate Apple IDs like this,” Goodman continued. “I don’t know what else we can give them to prove it’s our phone.”

“I think it’s pretty awful to send the message that if someone dies, their devices are no longer usable,” he said.

WCVB says that after contacting Apple, the company contacted Goodman and unlocked the iPhone. Apple reportedly said there was a bug in their system, but didn’t elaborate. The family is concerned that the problem may lie outside their device.

AppleInsider has contacted Apple for clarification.

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