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Could Posting Baby Photos on Facebook Get You Sued?

Oversharing may come at a price.
ByAnisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Updated
September 16, 2016
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Image: Shutterstock

When your kids are your world, your social media accounts are probably going to reflect that. But five, 10, even 20 years down the road, are your kids going to be okay with the photos of them that are out there? One 18-year-old is not, to say the least, and her efforts to sue her parents highlight the legality of babies on social media—again.

To be clear, this most recent lawsuit is outside of the United States. The plaintiff is from Carinthia, Austria, where legal experts believe she has a good chance of winning the financial compensation she seeks. But even more so, it seems she’s looking to send a message to mom and dad.

“I’m tired of not being taken seriously by my parents,” she said, according to The Local Austria. She says her parents have posted 500 of her baby and childhood photos on Facebook since 2009, making them visible to 700 friends. “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.”

Her father maintains that since he took the photos, he has the right to publish them. The case will go to court in November.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because earlier this year, French authorities warned parents to be cognizant of what they’re sharing on social media. Violation of France’s strict privacy laws, which prohibit internet users from publicising intimate details of the private lives of others (including their children), could result in fines of up to $50,000 and a year in prison.

The Facebook Terms of Service do their best to discourage users from posting anything that may encroach on another’s privacy, stating, “You will not post content or take any action on Facebook that infringes or violates someone else’s rights or otherwise violates the law.” But which US laws touch on social media privacy? Perhaps the “highly offensive” element of the false light portion of the right to privacy tort—but this parent-child battle has yet to be fought in America.

Still, it’s unlikely that this issue is going anywhere, especially as more and more kids grow up with their every move and milestone shared online by mom and dad. According to 2015 Pew data, 74 percent of US parents use Facebook, with half of this cohort signing in multiple times per day. (As for Instagram? A much smaller segment of parents have accounts, just 25 percent.)

Barriers do exist within social platforms to prevent the wrong type of content from being shared. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram each have reporting functions that allow users to flag photos that they feel are inappropriate. But consider checking your privacy settings, or thinking twice before posting something that could embarrass your child during college orientation. You definitely won’t want to be facing a lawsuit then!

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