I take photos of my kids nearly every day, but I'm somewhat conservative when it comes to sharing those shots on social media. Sure, I'll post a pic for milestones — birthdays, first day of school or holidays — but that's usually it. I used to share a lot more, and some of my friends still do. You also probably know moms and dads who have no problem emptying their photo stream into a Facebook album.
But what happens when the kids don't want their folks to broadcast those snapshots? Do they have a legal say when it comes to someone else sharing their image?
Well, we're about to find out. An 18-year-old woman from Austria is suing her parents for posting hundreds of photos of her on Facebook without her consent. The unnamed woman claims that since 2009, her parents have "made her life a misery" by continuously sharing pics from her childhood, including everything from baths to potty training.
"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 — every stage was photographed and then made public,” the woman told The Local in Austria..
Apparently she has asked her parents several times to take the photos down, but they refuse. Her father says that because he took the photos, he can publish them and share them with his 700 Facebook friends. This led his daughter to file the lawsuit: "I'm tired of not being taken seriously by my parents," she said.
If this family lived in France, her parents would be breaking the law. Anyone convicted of publishing or sharing another person's photo without that person's consent faces up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.
According to ParentZone, an organization in the U.K. that helps families navigate the digital age, the average parent shares nearly 1,500 images of their child online before that child's fifth birthday. They even have a term for it: "sharenting," or parents sharing images of their children on social media. The survey also found that about a third of parents said they upload, on average, 11 to 20 new photos of their child every month. (And about a third of parents expect other parents to ask their permission before posting a photo of their child.) Looking at those numbers, these Austrian parents didn't post quite that much.
What bothers me most about this case isn't the precedent it could set for what parents can or cannot post online regarding their children. It's that the parents refused repeated requests from their now-adult daughter to take the photos down — photos she felt were embarrassing or revealing. Sometimes when I take a photo of my 8-year-old daughter, she'll say, "Mom, don't post that one to Facebook!" And I don't, because it's a reasonable request, and my relationship with her is far more important than racking up Facebook "likes."
The case will be heard in November, and an Austrian legal expert told The Local that the young woman has a good chance of winning.