In Children, Photo sharing, Privacy

This week is National Child Protection Week across Australia and I was delighted to be asked to represent my company and discuss the important topic of child image protection on The TODAY Show last Sunday with eSafety expert, Susan McLean.

I thought I’d now share a quick thought-piece on what’s in a photo to remind parents why it’s so important to be careful when sharing images online, especially of our children.

Since the beginning of photo creation, images have been able to be manipulated by humans who had the right level of expertise and equipment, yet in today’s digital world, anyone with a smartphone can now do it! And when an image is saved it contains personal metadata and EXIF data captured from the camera or smartphone used. This is a lot of information being shared that most people are unaware of as it’s not always visible but can deliver a lot of clues on who the person featured in an image is, where they are and what they do.

Add this equation to the increase in teen use of social media and the sharing of selfies and other photos. It has recently been said that in the US, nearly 60 per cent of teens had been bullied or harassed online. Worse still, UK research earlier this year shows Instagram surpassing Facebook, which is fine except it has now become the leading platform for child grooming in the country with a 200% spike over last 18 months and primary age group targeted being 12-15 years (but also victims as young as 5).

This week is a good time to take stock and start to identify ways to better protect your kids’ photos when sharing them online. Here are 4 quick steps you can take to protect your images when sharing online:

1. Turn off geotagging

Turn off geotagging on photos and make the relevant setting to remove EXIF information, which includes GPS data, from your smartphones and digital cameras to protect your location information.

2. Remove the metadata from your images

Did you know there are more than 460 metadata and EXIF tags on digital still cameras? A lot may be irrelevant (like the type of camera used), but this data also includes highly sensitive data like time taken, GPS coordinates and usernames.

Some social media sites remove this data from the image before making it public but still collect and store this data for themselves whilst others will not remove it at all. In addition, the service used to post you photo online will record the IP address you used to upload the picture.

If you email or text a photo, the EXIF data will typically travel with it. That’s a fact

that should concern anyone, but especially parents who are communicating with strangers. Make sure you know what you are giving away before sharing or publishing photos. It’s best always to remove metadata yourself to prevent the unwanted, or better still, look carefully at pictures before you post them. For example, is there a street sign or building in the photo that will easily reveal your location?

3. Try and get consent

Consent is integral to the sharing of photos featuring others, and tagging should not be practised without getting specific permission from others included in the happy snap. Just a quick courtesy note, text or call is all that’s required to quickly check if it’s ok to share.

We are urging Australians to remember S.N.A.P.: Make sure your ‘School Now Asks Permission’ before sharing photos of children.

4. Use online services’ that have privacy settings and can apply restrictions

Be cautious about what you share, monitor and watch even what your family and friends are posting. Using a leading-edge photo management platform like pixevety will assist you in easily managing and curating your growing family photo collection and allow you to safely and privately share photos and videos with only the people you trust. If you leverage pixevety’s unique online consent module, you can also communicate what you want to have done with your photos when you share i.e. please don’t publish on social media.

I hope you find this short article helpful. Please keep top of mind this week that everything you publish online stays online. Be selective about what you post or share and do all you can to protect our kids.

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