This is going to be a rather opinionated post about a subject matter that I’ve taken a lot of interest in as it concerns me directly, on a personal basis. I realize that what I’m about to write may put me at odds with several friends . At the very least, it may sound patronizing. It’s not, it’s just my opinion and I don’t want to force it on anyone.
Here’s the background: The French Parliament is currently debating a series of regulations on the digital economy and as part of its measures, it has defined a new constraint that basically prohibits parents to upload pictures and videos of their (minor) children on social networks. According to the draft, if parents do upload this content on social networks they may get risk being sued by their own children and may be liable for civil damages and compensation. I do not know what will become of the whole draft nor that specific provision itself. What happened to me, following the news reports about the project, is that several of my friends tweeted and discussed online whether French had lost their sanity.
I will tell them straight away what I think: I do not know whether this regulation will help or change the behaviour of parents; but I can only say that I do share the concern expressed by the provision. Ever since Vallerand is born, we have never posted pictures showing his face. We do upload, quite parcimoniously I might add, very few pictures of our baby portraying him from his back, his slippers or his hands. We never show his face entirely. To many people, this might defeat the purpose of actually taking a picture. But to Melissa and I, we do this because we do not want to bring our son at his young age into the nets of marketers, big data, and surveillance. We do not want to put his face out there, despite the fact that we love him so tenderly. We do not want him to be identifiable unless he hasn’t expressed an actual will to do so. We want to offer him what is so expensive and becoming increasingly hard to achieve these days: the right to privacy. The right to not be into a network. His decision to engage into social networks may come early or late, for good or bad reasons, but that will be his decision. Not ours.
We have many friends who post pictures of their babies and their children quite regularly and we are obviously quite fine with that. In fact we love to see them. I giggle every time I see the faces of our friends’ and family’s babies. I want to squish and hug them so much. There’s no doubt about that. Of course, it does not mean we don’t take pictures of our son. On average we take two to three pictures of him a day. But we store them and share them on the Internet (read: by email) using a storage service that falls under French jurisdiction, for which we pay monthly and that does not take our data we upload for the product to be sold away.
Going back on what prompted this post, I’d like to reiterate that I do not find the idea of letting children sue their parents for uploading their personal pictures on social networks without their consent an absurd one. It may be extreme, or it may be impractical. Or it just may end up working quite well. This is about respecting people and in this specific case, people who cannot and do not know how to choose. No amount of “but that’s how we do it these days” will change that principle.
One last word: I am always very happy to see baby pictures friends and family share on social networks. I will be just as happy (but somewhat frustrated) to see the habit change. It will be for the best.