Parents could face heavy fines or even a prison sentence for breaching the privacy of their children by posting photos of them on social media, according to French legal experts. Could the same happen in the UK?
Under France’s stringent privacy laws, parents could face penalties as severe as a year in prison and a fine of €45,000 (£35,000) if convicted of publishing and distributing images of another person — including their children – without their consent.
In an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro, French internet law expert Eric Delcroix said: “In a few years, children could easily take their parents to court for publishing photos of them when they were younger.”
“We often criticise teenagers for their online behaviour, but parents are no better,” he added.
The French police recently renewed warnings about the danger of paedophiles targeting children after seeing family photographs online. Some parents report having been forced to remove naked pictures of babies or young children from social media sites.
“Protect your children!” France’s national gendarmerie wrote in a Facebook post last month, warning of the recent “Motherhood Challenge” viral campaign that encouraged users to post photos of themselves with their kids. “You can all be proud mums and dads to your magnificent children, but be careful,” the post continues. “We remind you that posting photos of your kids to Facebook is not without danger!” A regional branch of the gendarmerie went even further, imploring parents in all-caps to “STOP” the practice altogether.
While the story relates to France, it is not inconceivable to think that children in other countries – including the UK – might sue their parents for leaving digital footprints that have a negative impact on their lives further down the line.
A 2015 survey of social media awareness, conducted by the University of Michigan, found that more than 74 per cent of respondents claimed they had doubts about posting baby images on the web, however they followed the crowd and did it anyway.
Worryingly, 51 per cent of parents offered up personal information alongside their photos that could identify a child’s location.
They also found that more than half of mothers and one-third of fathers discuss child health and parenting on social media – and nearly three quarters of parents saying social media makes them feel less alone.