They are one of the most-hated aspects of Facebook: incessant photos of other people's babies and children. But, at last, the law could soon be helping put an end to this tedious oversharing.
Parents in France are being warned to stop putting up images of their children on social networks, as their offspring could eventually sue them for breaching their right to privacy, or jeopardising their security.
France has stringent privacy laws - much more protective than in the UK - and parents could face penalties as harsh as a year in prison and a £35,000 fine if they are convicted of publishing intimate details of the private lives of others without their consent. Their own children could fall into this bracket as soon as they become grown-ups.
Eric Delcroix, an expert on internet law and ethics, told Le Figaro newspaper: “In a few years, children could easily take their parents to court for publishing photos of them when they were younger. Children at certain stages do not wish to be photographed or still less for those photos to be made public... We often criticise teenagers for their online behaviour, but parents are no better."
Viviane Gelles, a lawyer specialising in internet-related issues, said that under current French law, “parents are responsible for protecting images of their children.”
In the UK, the situation is less clear, with parents likely to be safe to post photos of their own children, since they are their legal guardian, own the 'photo' in question and are responsible for making decisions regarding their welfare. However, publishing photos of other people's children is questionable - and should French courts start to see cases appear, it could have ramifications across the Channel.
French police have recently urged parents to consider the dangers of paedophiles targeting children after viewing family photos on line, with some parents forced to remove pictures of naked babies or young children from their social networks.
Jay Parikh, a vice-president of Facebook, said that the social media giant is currently debating whether to install a warning system on its service. He said, “If I was putting online a photo of my kids playing in the park, and I accidentally shared it with everyone, the system could say: “Hey, wait a minute, this is a picture of your children. Usually you only send them to members of your family. Are you sure you want to do this?’”
The French police recently posted on its own Facebook page, following the proliferation of the recent, dreadful "Motherhood Challenge" viral campaign, the following message: “You can all be proud moms and dads to your magnificent children, but be careful, we remind you that posting photos of your children on Facebook is not without danger … Protect your children!”. It also warned parents to beware of chain messages such as ‘Are you proud of your children? If so, post three pictures of your beautiful children on Facebook and get 10 of your friends to do the same.’
Meanwhile, a regional branch of the Gendarmerie went even further, imploring parents in all-caps to "STOP".
Frankly, any person that actually responds to one of those chain messages deserves to go to prison regardless.