In the modern age of social media platforms and housing basically everything online — photos especially — or in the cloud, it's scary to think about your family's privacy and what information is lurking on the internet that you don't want out there. When it comes to people taking photos and using them as their own or posting them to malicious sites, one true concern that parents have is how to get a photo of your kid taken off a site.
Unfortunately, information surrounding the legalities and proper steps to take when it comes to your child and their photos online are honestly really confusing and blurred. Luckily, Romper has done the research for you, including speaking with New York City prosecutor Robert Shull, to offer some comforting, and not so comforting, information for concerned parents.
First and foremost, start with your social media platforms. One you post photos of your kid (or anything), you only have control over how others share them to a certain extent. According to Common Sense Media, "Unless the photo violates the social media site's terms of service ... there's not a lot you can do to get the photo taken down." Although Facebook will delete a photo that was straight up stolen from you, it's important to consider what you're comfortable with before posting photos of your kids anywhere. Are you comfortable sharing your children's photos, and are you okay with your friends or family sharing them as well? If you're not, it may be best to adopt the policy of not sharing photos of your children on your social sites. Common Sense Media also went on to share that you can't assume everyone else is going to feel the same way about social media than you. "Just be honest that it makes you uncomfortable. The bottom line is: If you don't want pictures of your kids shared, it's up to you to let people know."
What if, however, someone is taking and using photos of your kids online without your permission or in a malicious manner? This is where things get a little more complicated. According to Shull, "It can be easy or difficult depending on the platform and photo" to get an image taken down. Shull also said, however, that unless it's inappropriate, it could to take a fight to get it taken down entirely.
Most social sites are fairly on top of it when it comes to blatant bullying or inappropriate content. However, any photos used otherwise may require more action and effort, and it's your responsibility to make yourself heard. Shull shared that for images that are taken at a public setting, like a photo posted of a class party, often there's not a lot you can do. If a photo is inappropriate or harassing in some way, "law enforcement can order them to freeze the account or take down a photo, but there would need to be a criminal investigation," Shull shares. There could also be civil legal action or "a strongly worded letter from an attorney or threats of a lawsuit," but that course doesn't have a 100% guarantee either, according to Shull.
Ultimately, if your child's photo is posted somewhere in a harassing or inappropriate manner, it's important to reach out to the social platform to have it taken down asap. You can involve law enforcement if it's a website or platform that isn't complying or is using the photo for their own site illegally.
There are, however, rights for photos that are yours and have been stolen for personal use or gain on a website or for a business. According to The Spruce, verify your photo and if reaching out to the website doesn't help, you can contact the webhost. Beyond that, there's still not a ton you can do, but you can preventatively register your photos (primarily if they're your own photography or business images) with the copyright office, which allows you to sue for damages.
If you want to take preventative measures all together, it's best not to post photos of your children online at all, especially if you're uncomfortable with others sharing them on social media or the possibility of a photo being shared outside of your privacy settings.
There are occasional stories of photos being taken to create fake profiles overseas, like in professional photographer and mother of two Jessica Gwozdz's case, according to The New York Times. Although the site also shared that situations like this are a matter of living with the reality of the Web: “Hundreds of kids die in swimming pools every year, but we don’t shut down all the pools – we teach kids how to swim.” Like any major parental debate, this is an issue and boundary that often divides parents. In the end, it's best to decide what works for your family, what you're comfortable with, and move forward using those guidelines.
Also consider doing your research and updating your privacy settings before posting photos of your children. To do this, check out your social platforms' terms of service. You can visit Instagram's here, Facebook's here, Pinterest's here, and Twitter's here. For other popular photo platforms like Tumblr or Flickr, read up on terms of service here and here. Of course, this is all easier said than done. While most of us probably aren't reading the find print on all the terms of agreement forms we are checking the box on, it's at least important to be somewhat aware of the possible things that can go awry with your personal photographs. And keep in mind that if you do ever find yourself in a position where you are fighting to have a photograph removed from a site, be prepared to put in the time, effort, and, in some cases, money.
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