Embarrassing family photos aren’t sequestered in home photo albums anymore. Instead, they can easily be shared by doting parents on social media. In fact, 41% of parents say they use social media to help them remember and preserve family photos and videos. Even when the photos might make you cringe, these posts are typically harmless (and are easy to remove from your profile).
But one Austrian teen is now suing her parents for posting humiliating childhood photos on Facebook without her consent. The photos include depictions of diaper changes, potty training, and nude baby pictures. Her father claims ownership of the photos and therefore has refused to remove them from Facebook.
The law is catching up in terms of criminalizing certain photo-based activities, like the legal measures taken against “revenge porn.” These posts involve former boyfriends and girlfriends who post nude photos of their exes. Such practices are now illegal in California.
But if the photo isn’t pornographic or explicit in nature, the legal actions that can be taken are much more limited. In order to prove cyber exploitation in a court of law, you have to prove invasion of privacy, defamation, or that the photo was used for commercial practices without consent.
In this case, invasion of privacy could be claimed, but chances of winning that case in the U.S. would be slim. Without proof of malicious intent or that the post was used to provoke sexual activity, this case wouldn’t get very far in a U.S. court of law. However, the legal system in Austria differs quite a bit from that in the United States. In the U.S., the First Amendment and freedom of speech laws must be considered.
Facebook does uphold community standards for the platform, and offensive photos can be flagged by the social network. But parents have been flagged for innocent photos before, and those decisions have led to parental outrage and community backlash.
Although there are laws protecting minors that allow them to remove inappropriate online content, the embarrassment they experience from their parents will continue to impact them for years to come.