"I vividly remember the moment, on my first day of school, when my dad let me stand in front of the school’s coat of arms, switched on his film camera, and clicked a photo," mom Candice le Sueur Fisher tells me.
"It was a proud moment. I was holding my brown cardboard suitcase… I still have that photo," she says.
Many of us have similar photos, and just this month I also took those same snaps of my kids as they started the first day of their various classes this year.
The pics are so cute, and it's tempting to share them far and wide. As a proud parent I obviously want to show off my family, but unfortunately I'm also well aware of the dangers of posting their photos online.
As an adult who now specialises as a privacy consultant, so is Le Sueur Fisher, who stresses that these first day of school photos are taken firstly for the benefit of the child, and then for the family.
What exactly are the risks?
A photo contains masses of information that can be used by anyone with access to the image.
This includes elements such as personal information, race, age group, gender, location information, indications of preferences, potential health information and more.
Additionally, the image of your child's face can be used for facial recognition, and location, either by visual information or geo-tagging.
This information can be used for a number of purposes, from businesses invested in corporate surveillance to trafficking cartels.
In the case of that proud pic before the school gates and your child in their school uniform, posted on Facebook, you're giving away your child's full name, race, gender, age, school name, grade and location - in addition to your own name.
With knowledge of the school and location, it is even possible for others to make assumptions about your socio-economic status.
It's also easy to look up information on the school's business hours, transport options, teachers and so on.
And anyone with criminal intent has access to all this - and they know exactly what you and your child look like too.
This information can be used in a number of frightening ways.
"Knowing that there are these physical and digital privacy risks," Le Sueur Fisher adds, "don’t just follow the crowd, consider why you chose to do what you do."
Before posting these precious pics on social media, Le Sueur Fisher suggests Parent24 readers first take a moment to think about it, using the BAR method:
- B - BENEFIT: Is it to benefit the child?
- A - ALTERNATIVE: Is there an alternative way to share the photo?
- R - RISK: Do the opportunities that come from posting the photo online outweigh the risks?
Chyrissé Smith, owner of CSI Attorneys, tells Parent24 that every person has a right to privacy and it is particularly the parent's duty to protect the privacy of their minor children as they see fit, and to the best interest of that minor child at all times.
South African law makes it clear that when publication occurs, every person, directly or indirectly responsible for the publication thereof, can possibly be held legally liable for it.
This will depend on a variety of factors, set by the court, of course, but it does mean that in theory your child could one day take you to court for sharing their photos - even these adorable first-day-of-school snaps.
Also, pay attention to who else might be in the picture: teachers, other parents and their children might not take kindly to you sharing their images online either.
Share your stories and questions with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous contributions are welcome.
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