It's a humid summer's day: At a public outdoor pool, a mother takes a photo of her daughter with her smartphone. She wants to share the photo on Facebook, contributing to the so-called, "Motherhood Challenge", where proud mothers showcase pictures of their children. The mother accepts the challenge and uploads a picture of her daughter in her swimsuit. What this leads to could have been prevented, had the mom listened to the known warnings.
For this mom though, the warnings came too late: Investigators found the photo of her daughter on a dubious child pornography site. There seem to be people out there who scan social networks with the sole purpose of finding photos of children to then trade. This mom made it easy for the perpetrators because the photos of her daughter were on Facebook for all to see. So this "Motherhood Challenge" has now become the touchstone for the privacy of children on the net.
Police worldwide are warning parents not to publish photos of their children on social networks. And here are four very good reasons why parents should listen:
1. Children's photos play straight into the hands of stalkers and sex offenders. Strangers can help themselves to these photos and also find out where the child and family live.
2. Children's photos give a bad example in terms of data protection: parents are consenting to their privacy being exposed on the internet.
3. Children's photos make identity theft easier for strangers wanting to falsify user profiles with these photos in order to approach other children or adolescents on the net.
4. Children's photos lead to bullying. Of course, the parents find them cute but later on when the children reach puberty, they could become victims of bullying because of the flood of images.
Many countries are debating the prospect of tightening the laws of data protection in order to better protect the privacy of children. France is acting as a role model in these matters, whereby the publishing of pictures without the consent of the person is penalized with a fine of up to $50,000 or a year in jail. It is a strict law, which can also be applied retrospectively. This means that even adult children could sue their parents for illicitly posting pictures. Facebook even wants to react to this problem by warning about the future uploading of images when they are posted publicly.
The data protection issue has been cause for concern for a while now and not only when children's photos are involved. In this day and age, with face recognition and data theft, you should really seriously consider what details you reveal about yourself. Tips on how to protect your privacy on Facebook can be found here and under settings, you will be able to see who has access to your photos and posts.