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Facebook users in France posting photos of their kids could face fines, jail time

In an effort to protect children from sexual predators and other online dangers, France’s National Gendarmerie, or national police force, is urging parents to be more careful when posting pictures of their kids on Facebook and sharing them with the general public. And, under the country’s privacy laws, experts say parents could end up facing jail time, a hefty fine, or even being sued by their children in the future, if they are convicted of violating the laws.

The National Gendarmerie posted the statement on February 23 in response to the “motherhood challenge” that recently went viral on Facebook, in which mothers posted three photos of themselves and their kids, and then tagged other moms they know to do the same. In the post, the National Gendarmerie writes that while people can be the proud mom or dad of beautiful kids, positing pictures on Facebook is not without danger.

[PRÉVENTION] Préservez vos enfants !Si vous avez suivi Facebook, une chaîne de publication est à la mode en ce moment…

Posted by Gendarmerie nationale on Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Related: How much do Americans really value their online privacy?

The post links to a February 15 article in the newspaper Le Figaro (via The Verge), in which experts on French Internet laws explain the perils parents could face in addition to harming their kids’ privacy. One quoted expert, Éric Delcroix, says French privacy laws forbid anyone from publishing photos of another without consent; they could face fines of up to 45,000 euros (approximately $49,000) and/or one year in prison if laws are violated. Plus, Delcroix says they could also be sued by their own children in the future.

“If, in a few years, the children feel they are victims of infringement of privacy by their own parents, they may demand restitution,” Delcroix tells Le Figaro. “Teenagers are often criticized for their Internet behavior, but parents are no better.”

To further explain the complexity, Viviane Gelles, a lawyer who specializes in Internet law, adds that parents are jointly responsible for protecting images of their children, per Article 9 of the Civil Code. Even if they separate, they must consult one another before publishing an image; otherwise, one parent could sue the other.

Protecting children’s online privacy, including their images, isn’t a new dilemma, and it’s one Facebook has continued to address. During a conference on November 11, 2015, in London, Jay Parikh, Facebook’s vice president of engineering, said that in the future, Facebook users could see a warning if the image they’re posting would be viewable to the general public. This could help parents think twice before sharing.

“If I were to upload a photo of my kids playing at the park and I accidentally had it shared with the public, this system could say: Hey wait a minute, this is a photo of your kids, normally you post this to just your family members, are you sure you want to do this?,” said Parikh, according to the Evening Standard.

France isn’t the only country taking precautions on protecting the privacy of children. Similarly, German police last year warned citizens to tread carefully before sharing photos of their children, according to the BBC.