French Parents Face Fines, Lawsuits And Prison For Posting Pictures Of Their Own Children Online

from the bad-news-for-oversharers dept

As Techdirt reported recently, the controversial “right to be forgotten” — actually more of a right to be de-linked in search engines — is starting to spread around the world. But its spiritual home is definitely in Europe, where privacy concerns tend to outweigh other considerations, like freedom of speech, that are regarded as paramount elsewhere — in the US, for example. Leading the charge in the EU is France, which has been pushing Google to de-link items even more widely. According to a report in The Telegraph, France’s zeal in protecting everyone’s privacy may turn out to have some rather unexpected consequences:

Under France’s stringent privacy laws, parents could face penalties as severe as a year in prison and a fine of €45,000 [about $49,000] if convicted of publicising intimate details of the private lives of others — including their children — without their consent.

As if that weren’t enough, French parents may also find themselves being sued by their own offspring for posting all those cute pictures of them when they were babies:

Eric Delcroix, an expert on internet law and ethics, said: “In a few years, children could easily take their parents to court for publishing photos of them when they were younger.”

Grown-ups who sue their parents for breaching their right to privacy as children could obtain substantial compensation awards, according to French legal experts.

Leaving aside the question of whether it’s really appropriate for children to sue their own parents for this kind of thing, there is another important point here: the fact that people are posting intimate pictures of their family life online with no thought for the immediate or long-term consequences. There’s little awareness that once something has been disseminated online it’s very hard to remove it afterwards. The good news is that Facebook, at least, is aware of the problem, and working on a possible solution:

Jay Parikh, a vice-president of Facebook, said the service was considering setting up a system to notify parents who put photographs of children online without restricting their privacy settings.

Mr Parikh 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?’ ”

Even here, of course, there are issues to do with Facebook’s use of facial recognition capabilities, which would presumably be needed in order to provide this new system. But a gentle reminder that posting pictures of your children for all the world to see might not be a really wise idea — just before you publish — seems like a reasonable approach. It’s certainly better than fining you, suing you or throwing you in prison afterwards, when nothing can be done about it.

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Comments on “French Parents Face Fines, Lawsuits And Prison For Posting Pictures Of Their Own Children Online”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Oh look another case of bad possible outcomes by ramming a law through to deal with a problem as fast as possible.

This is the world we created, lawsuits over everything looking to get paid. We’ve already seen an adult child sue her parents to try to force them to pay for her college, and that case went on far to long. We create more expansive rights without limitations, never looking at how this never works out as intended because handling the details might make them loose media coverage.

AricTheRed says:


France has some Fantastic inheritance taxes, like 90% as I recall.

Perhaps this is a way to squeeze Mom and Dad’s estate. Sue them at the end of their life for all of the embarrassing photos, They pay the lawyers, loose their cases and have to pay the kids, lawyers kick back to the kids, mom and dad kick off before having to go to jail. It’s like Win-Win-Win!

Inheritance taxes, another thing that gets solved by the “Right to be Forgotten”

Vic B (profile) says:

Re: Although...

you recall wrong. Inheritance tax in France are based on the amount inherited, the larger the amount the greater the tax. I’ve not heard of 90% inheritance tax although they can be in excess of 60%.

The logic behind it is that France wants to prevent concentration of wealth transmitted from generation to generation, much like aristocracies in centuries past. France is a small country where billionaires can wield quite a bit of influence over everything…

Tom Mink (profile) says:


I don’t know if European courts work like in the US with respect to the ability of minors to enter into contracts… but I suspect it’s at least as limited. So there’s really no way for parents to avoid potential liability, since children couldn’t even legally give permission. Worse, since most social media platforms require parental authorization (theoretically at least) that shifts the liability for liability for anything kids post to their parents as well.

What a mess

Douglas (user link) says:


Why do you think people are posting things online without considering the future? Many of us post pictures knowing they’re hard to remove and that they’ll be around for decades, because we think sharing our lives now is more important than vague concerns about long-term backlash for things nobody will really care about in a month or year or decade. This isn’t accidental — it’s very intentional.

athe says:


So, if this were a possibility, why would any parent/guardian sign their consent to anything that their child does if there’s the possibility of it coming back at them once said child reaches the age of consent? If you follow the breadcrumbs, this is a potential outcome…

And how is taking away and throwing the child’s legal guardian into prison for a year (or fining them for a year’s salary or greater) in anyway beneficial to the child?

klaus says:

Well I’m really confused. Why is this narrowed down to just children? If this is truly related to privacy, then surely anyone posting a picture of anyone else would come under this. Which would shut down Tumblr (in France).

From the Telegraph: “Some parents have been forced to remove naked pictures of babies or young children”

Well ok, but that’s not even remotely the same issue as privacy. Maybe I’m missing something (or forgot to take my crazy pills) but I suspect something is being conflated here, and it’s hard to tell if it’s the French with their comedy lawmaking or The Telegraph desperately trying to be The Guardian.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is the ultimate non-story produced by an imaginative reporter on a slow news day, and obeying the first rule of journalism: when in doubt, make it up. So far as I can see this “story” hasn’t been reported in the French media, and it amounts to one self-styled expert saying that, theoretically, at some stage in the future, under existing laws designed for other purposes, French children could try to sue their parents for posting photos of them. This is then linked with a (possibly excessive but understandable) warning about posting naked photos of children that might encourage pedophiles. The whole thing amounts to…nothing.
Incidentally, the French privacy laws were introduced as a reaction to the vicious press campaigns of the 1930s by right-wing media groups against left-wing (especially Jewish) politicians. We’re not in that territory, and as far as I know, no-one has ever been imprisoned under these laws anyway.
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