A Privacy Dilemma


What do you do when you are faced with a privacy dilemma? This week, one of my children brought home a consent form; and it wasn’t for a field trip. It was a consent form to allow pictures to be used on a website used by many to raise funds for school projects. So I am faced with a privacy ethical dilemma. Do I protect my child’s privacy by not allowing pictures of her to be used as the letter states “on our website and may allow our donors to display all photographs on their websites and social media channels and to otherwise use the photographs for publicity and promotional purposes” or do I allow her picture to be used because her teacher is raising funds to be able to afford projects that shall further her education?

So here I am sitting with this letter trying to make the right decision. But is there a right or wrong in this case? You see, it’s difficult because ultimate ethical systems are impracticable. It is nearly impossible to define with absolutes. Ethical systems are workable as sets of principles. So do I give permission for my daughter’s pictures to be used so that her class can get much needed resources sacrificing her privacy in the process?

Our kids care about their privacy. It matters to them. How would they feel if we asked them if we could take their picture and post it for the world to see? I wonder sometimes what it feels like to be a kid these days. Whenever any of us pulls out a camera to document the recitation of a poem or performance of a play and post it on social media, our children’s privacy becomes public. When I was growing up I could see parent faces, now I imagine kids see camera phones…but I digress.

And this is the point when we need to stop thinking about what we want and shift our focus to the children and ask ourselves – what do they want? How do they feel? This picture, this image of my kid, is becoming part of her data trail. A data trail that she is having very little say in its forming. If others can take this picture and use it in other materials it is becoming impossible for my daughter to control her data. Which is why the issue is so complicated. But in controlling the use of her picture we are in a sense limiting the ability for the school to raise funds. And it is a struggle to deal with this tension. Who gets to decide what is right? Am I right or should the school get as many opportunities for funds as they can? Thus the privacy dilemma, in the effort to protect one am I unwillingly affecting others. A photograph is more than just a photograph.

So what do you do? Sign the paper or not?





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  1. Sheila

    February 7, 2015 - Reply

    [When I was growing up I could see parent faces, now I imagine kids see camera phones…but I digress.]

    Love your digression. I am so happy we didn’t have today’s technology when raising my kids. We had video recorders – that was a big deal. I probably would have plastered my kids’ picture all over social media & knowing them as adults today, they would not be happy with me.

    Knowing what I know today — if I did have the ability to share pictures of my children (or others’ children) online I wouldn’t.

    Great blog entry. yay.

  2. Sheila

    February 7, 2015 - Reply

    Addendum: I’m glad we didn’t have cell phones because I would be distracted from parenting.

    Sometimes the moments are most memorable when there is no recording.

  3. PrivacyMom

    February 12, 2015 - Reply

    Very interesting article; I had to complete a similar consent form a few months ago. The question I usually ask is not “How do they feel?” but “How will they feel about this when they are older?” I say that because with social media being such a normal thing today, most kids feel comfortable with their parents posting pictures of them. This might sound extreme but I often wonder how comfortable they will feel in the future when they are doing something like running for office and someone gets ahold of information posted somewhere like social media and discover that John Doe didn’t conquer potty training until he was five or see a picture of Jane’s grades with all A’s but one C in a specific subject matter. I think most of them will wish their parents had not posted all those things no matter how proud they were at the time because they could be taken out of context in the future. I believe we are helping our kids by limiting what we put out there and by taking the time to explain to them what privacy is and how with today’s technology it has become harder, but not impossible, to control it. So, yes; I’m the parent that rarely releases information on her kids but I have yet to see the absence of my child’s picture affect a fundraising effort. In addition, I feel that by not releasing their information we are giving our children the choice to control it and decide what to do with it when they are older.

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