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Living in Paris or Provence has long been a fantasy of mine, although it now seems I should probably throw in the towel (or la serviette, because I'm handy in Google Translate like that).
It's not because I don't still dream of sipping impossibly strong espresso while strolling along the Seine, or picking flowers from the brightly colored fields that inspired Matisse. No, it's because apparently if I were to live in France, I stand the chance of losing everything I have because of the potty training photos I once posted of my daughters on Facebook.
Parents in France were recently warned by authorities to stop posting photos of their children on social media sites including Facebook and Twitter.
"Please stop posting pictures of your kids on Facebook," French Gendarmerie are telling moms and dads, according to the French site The Local.
The concern is that French parents are over-sharing to the extent that they are potentially endangering their own children by sharing things such as their names, schools, activity and locations. Pedophiles and identity thieves target social media sites, French authorities say, which means kids could be in harm's way because of a photo showing them eating ice cream.
Moms and dads could go to prison for up to a year and be fined upwards of $50,000 if convicted of "publicizing details of their children's private lives without their permission."
The Local says that Facebook "is believed" to be working on a pop-up alert that would ask parents to be sure if they really want to post a photo of their kids. Fortunately for me, I gave birth to a pop-up of my very own.
The other day my 7-year-old daughter came in to give me a good morning hug wearing a pajama top, soccer socks pulled up to her knees, and a sleepy grin. With her hair tousled, she looked impossibly adorable and I couldn't help but snap a photo.
"Don't put it on Facebook," she said to me.
We've been talking to her lately about time and place as they apply to nudity, so I understood why she felt being shown publicly in her underwear would be inappropriate. While I was proud that she's clearly listening, I simultaneously felt ashamed knowing just how many other photos are out there of her. I feel confident that my privacy settings are solid on Facebook, which is the only place where photos of my kids are labeled with their names. Any other place you see pictures of them, you won't know who they are. But just keeping their identities private isn't the only issue.
The other issue—and it's not a small one—is that parents can be sued by their kids under France's privacy laws. Le Figaro reports moms and dads could go to prison for up to a year and be fined upwards of $50,000 if convicted of "publicizing details of their children's private lives without their permission."
It's not just France that parents should heed caution, either. According to NBC News, "Internet privacy is a murky, complicated issue full of conflicting interests, misinformation, innuendo and technology snafus."
While the Internet age is still pretty much in its infancy, it would seem wise before it reaches its adolescence to do some shoring up on personal accounts. There are a few obvious solutions, like having your child sign a waiver at birth. Or there might be a simpler one, such as ensuring your privacy settings on Facebook are set so only friends can see what you post. As for the photos themselves, no one will be able to track down the location if you change the settings in iPhone to ensure the geographical coordinates cannot be gleaned (Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Camera > Never).
And then there's the smell test, which is simple: If there's a chance your child will grow up, see the photos you've posted of them online and never come near enough for you to smell them again, maybe don't share them online.