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