The Problem of Posting Pictures Online

I was listening several weeks ago to Leo Laporte’sJumping Monkeys” podcast about parenting in the digital age and his co-host, Megan Morrone, talked about a parent who was suing a company for using a picture the parent had posted on the online picture website, Flickr (See Episode 18). Laporte and his fellow TWITS have all been long advocates of online media going back to the ZD-TV days when the big thing was to post cellphone pictures to TextAmerica. But, admittedly, there’s a bit difference between posting stupid grainy cellphone pictures of you and your drinking buddies versus family pictures of your teenage niece and her friends. Ack

Beautiful Aimee
Beautiful Aimee

Being the guy wandering any social event with a camera I didn’t think twice about putting my photos on an online website, being motivated to have my pictures available to largest possible audience. Lovely Taco Beach bartender and frequent victim of my photography, Aimee, thought that having all my stuff online was pretty amazing, especially in view of stories that keep cropping up of teachers losing their jobs (or worse) for exposing their private life online. My thought has always been that I have nothing to hide and that having fun with my friends, generally in public places, and posting photos from said fun times does not hinder or compromise my ability to function as a professional educator. But then again that’s me and I don’t live in a place were these things are considered bad and somehow demean my position. Bah! But listening to Megan and Leo made me wonder when it comes to posting pictures of my granddaughter or my nieces.

I’ve always told my students to be aware of not saying too much or putting too much information online, but at the same time, knowing how much energy and time kids can put into a thing, they should claim the Internet as their own and make more places to meet in and put their stuff instead of staying away ’cause there are bad people on the Internet. Within reason I believe that one way to protect them from the bad people on the Internet is to empower them to take it over with their creativity and their energy. Maybe the difference is that in both cases the person posting the pictures is doing that for themselves to share with others. Whereas the problem can be that the other people in the photos might not want to have their pictures posted. I’ve run into that problem head-on before. Some people don’t want anyone else to know what they’re doing and would never post photos for that reason.So it’s a matter of where my freedom of expression conflicts with another’s desire for privacy. And the problem is made all the worse when the other isn’t old enough to know or express whether they want their “baby in the bathtub” pictures on the Internet.

I remember when I first started doing my school’s website and what few photos there were posted were all of the back of kids heads. I thought that completely defeated one of the purposes of having a website, which was to promote student work and “ownership” of the site. So, seeing that the problem was mostly a matter of giving parents the power to choose how their children would be posted I took a Internet consent form and modified it so that parents they could pick whether we could post student work and images, student work only, or opt completely out. That seems to work at school, but what about my nieces and granddaughter?

Most photo-sharing sites have privacy options, but, as Megan mentioned, any barrier put in front of tech-challenged relatives, whether it’s a password or need for membership opt-in to the site, is generally enough to keep the intended audience from viewing the pictures. So the dilemma remains. Argh. I wish it were simpler but I guess it really comes down to your own comfort level AND the comfort level of the others in the picture. Damn. jbb

Music: Jumping Monkeys, Episode 18: Parent Hacks 10/7/07