In my last post, I shared that we have decided not to publish photos online of our daughter’s face. Here is my attempt to explain why.
I have the opinion that Germans are generally more cautious about information sharing and privacy. Post WWII, East German citizens, lived under surveillance and suspicion from Russian control. I speculate that this experience in their not so distant history contributes to the general wariness of online sharing and the prioritization of digital privacy. There is a German email service provider called Posteo that provides email services for a fee and in return protects user privacy and anonymity. Posteo experienced a huge jump in customers following the Snowden incident (from 10,000 to 70,000!). To try and understand what the invasiveness and potential tragedy of life under surveillance and suspicion can entail, I recommend (again) the movie ‘The Lives of Others’.
Living in a culture with such a perspective, it seems only natural that it would begin to influence our own.
I suppose anyone who has a Facebook account knows passively at least, that there is such a thing as facial recognition software. Any time you upload a photo, Facebook can suggest to you the names of people that it thinks are in that photo. This is a convenient tool to tag your friends so they can see the photos that include them, and I admit I have often used this without thought. Even the cameras in our smartphones recognize and focus in on faces in the frames.
If any of you watched the Bourne Identity movies, surely you noticed that the agencies hunting him relied heavily on cameras and facial recognition. I’m not saying that Hollywood doesn’t lie or exaggerate. However I do believe-even in the greatest of exaggerations-often lies a kernel of truth. We have no idea the lengths of what facial recognition software is used for now and could be used for in the future. Therefore ‘cautious me’ approves of the idea to preserve our daughter’s facial anonymity while it is in our control.
My desire is not to retreat from the digital world, it is only to try and move within it utilizing thoughtfulness. I take care to write about travels after we have returned from them, and be careful about what I choose to share. Our daughter is a human being, and for now we hold the responsibility of what the internet can learn about her. I acknowledge that she will in all likelihood, someday be posting and sharing things of her life online. Our choice to hide her face, is probably to some an effort in futility. However, when she does start sharing it will be photos of her choosing.
If there is one thing that seems certain about our future, it is that the digital world continues to evolve. Already perhaps you notice that ads on your browser seem to target you specifically. In spite of the fact that I rarely read articles or news in German, my browser knows I am in Germany and all our ads appear in the German language and often are for items that I have recently researched or even purchased.
Among the parent community here there is some discussion about creating a digital trust for your children. Some of my new mother friends have created email accounts for their babies to give them later on. They send messages and sometimes photos and videos, with the plan to give over the email address as a gift later on-sort of a digital baby book. Along those lines, I recently read an article on a tech blog about taking control of your online presence. It convinced me to purchase her url (firstnamelastname.com) and then I too, like those other moms created an email account for her.
I am not in anyway implying that parents who freely share photos and information about their children online are doing anything wrong. My point is also not to persuade anyone to my way of thinking. It is only to share why we have decided to do as we do.