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I Just Don”t Understand

Why We Post I Just Don’t Understand—Nothing—About Our Kid Online. You Should Do the Same for Your Kids.

It’s the only way to defend her against facial recognition, Facebook profiling, and corporate data mining. I vividly remember the Facebook post. But there were also photos of her in a bathtub and an awkward moment posing in her mother’s lacy pink bra. I completely understood her parents’ desire to capture Kate’s everyday moments, because early childhood is so ephemeral. I also knew how those posts would affect Kate as an adult, and the broader impact of creating a generation of kids born into original digital sin. Last week, Facebook updated its privacy policy again.

We are able to suggest that your friend tag you in a picture by scanning and comparing your friend’s pictures to information we’ve put together from your profile pictures and the other photos in which you’ve been tagged. Six thousand respondents to Slate’s survey show a clear trend. The problem is that Facebook is only one site. That poses some obvious challenges for Kate’s future self. It’s hard enough to get through puberty. Why make hundreds of embarrassing, searchable photos freely available to her prospective homecoming dates? If Kate’s mother writes about a negative parenting experience, could that affect her ability to get into a good college?

There’s a more insidious problem, though, which will haunt Kate well into the adulthood. Myriad applications, websites, and wearable technologies are relying on face recognition today, and ubiquitous bio-identification is only just getting started. In 2011, a group of hackers built an app that let you scan faces and immediately display their names and basic biographical details, right there on your mobile phone. The easiest way to opt-out is to not create that digital content in the first place, especially for kids. Kate’s parents haven’t just uploaded one or two photos of her: They’ve created a trove of data that will enable algorithms to learn about her over time.

Knowing what we do about how digital content and data are being cataloged, my husband and I made an important choice before our daughter was born. We decided that we would never post any photos or other personally identifying information about her online. Instead, we created a digital trust fund. The process started in earnest as we were selecting her name. Next, we crawled through Google to see what content had been posted with those name combinations, and we also looked to see if a Gmail address was open. Parental stress about technology is incredibly destructive.

Posted in CD.