Along with funny cat videos and “Keep Calm” memes, photos of people’s kids are one of the basic currencies of social media, and indeed many parents seem to share these family snapshots reflexively – funny naked pics and all. They might want to reconsider this seemingly harmless habit, however, in light of the potential embarrassment to their kids, not to mention the potential legal ramifications for themselves.
In fact, in some countries your kids can sue you for posting childhood photos without their permission. That’s what’s happening in the Austrian province of Carinthia, where an 18-year-old has filed a lawsuit against her parents for breach of privacy and data violations for sharing around 500 photos of her on Facebook without her consent beginning in 2009, including photos of her as a young child in which she is naked, having her diaper changed or in potty training.
The teen, who has not been named in the press, first found out about her family’s online photo album when she joined Facebook in 2012. She told one Austrian newspaper: “They knew no shame and no limit and didn't care whether it was a picture of me sitting on the toilet or lying naked in my cot.”
The teen asked her parents to stop posting the photos but they refused. In words that have echoed through family life from the beginning of time, the teen added: “I’m tired of not being taken seriously by my parents.” The father certainly seems to be inhabiting a different world from his progeny, telling a weekly magazine: “In the end this is our child, and for my wife and me, it’s a nice family album that’s been well received by our Facebook friends.” Okay dad, see you in court!
According to the teen’s lawyer, under Austrian law the photos may constitute a transgression against her right to a private personal life, in which case she has a very good chance of winning her case. If a judge finds in favor of the teen her parents may be liable for damages and may also have to cover her legal costs.
Concern about parents over-sharing on social media has been growing across Europe. Earlier this year the French national police force warned parents to think twice about posting photos of their children on Facebook or other social networks, due in large part to concern they may be violating their privacy, as well as exposing them to danger from unsavory adults. The French police posted the following statement on Facebook: “You can all be proud moms and dads to your magnificent children, but be careful. We remind you that posting photos of your kids to Facebook is not without danger!” Among other things they warned that these photos could contribute to “social or psychological problems that children could face later in life.”Meanwhile in the U.S. a survey conducted by researchers at the University of Washington and University of Michigan found that one of the most common requests from children ages 10-17 was that parents stop posting photos on social media without their permission.