Press-Republican

FYI...

September 17, 2013

Why we post nothing about our daughter online

I vividly remember the Facebook post. It was my friend's 5-year-old daughter "Kate," (a pseudonym) standing outside of her house in a bright yellow bikini, the street address clearly visible behind her on the front door. A caption read "Leaving for our annual Labor Day weekend at the beach," and beneath it were more than 50 likes and comments from friends - including many "friends" that Kate's mom barely knew.

The picture had been uploaded to a Facebook album, and there were 114 shots just of Kate: freshly cleaned and swaddled on the day of her birth . . . giving her Labradoodle a kiss . . . playing on a swing set. But there were also photos of her in a bathtub and an awkward moment posing in her mother's lacy pink bra.

I completely understood her parents' desire to capture Kate's everyday moments, because early childhood is so ephemeral. I also knew how those posts would affect Kate as an adult, and the broader impact of creating a generation of kids born into original digital sin.

Last week, Facebook updated its privacy policy again. It reads in part: "We are able to suggest that your friend tag you in a picture by scanning and comparing your friend's pictures to information we've put together from your profile pictures and the other photos in which you've been tagged." Essentially, this means that with each photo upload, Kate's parents are, unwittingly, helping Facebook to merge her digital and real worlds. Algorithms will analyze the people around Kate, the references made to them in posts, and over time will determine Kate's most likely inner circle.

The problem is that Facebook is only one site. With every status update, YouTube video, and birthday blog post, Kate's parents are preventing her from any hope of future anonymity.

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