Can you sue your parents for sharing embarassing childhood photos?

An Austrian teen was so unhappy with the photos her parents posted online, she sued them. (September 15, 2016)

Before the digital age, there were big, heavy photo albums proud parents used to document their children's life stages.

Nowadays, there's smartphones and social media. New parents are notorious for flooding Facebook and Instagram with photos of their kids. Life's precious moments are now captured instantly, with the click of a camera phone.

It's normal for kids to blush at embarrassing photos their parents choose to share.

But an 18-year-old Austrian woman is actually suing her parents for posting embarrassing childhood photos of her on Facebook without her consent. The photos include baby pictures of diaper changes, potty training and nude baby photos. The woman's father believes since he took the photos, he has the right to publish them and refuses to take them down.

The case brings into question- what online privacy rights do teenagers and minors have in the state of California? And what would happen if there were a similar case in a California court?

California has criminalized some online photo activities-- such as with the 2013 post 'revenge porn' law, which made it illegal for exes to post nude photos of their former significant other.

But a humiliating photo isn't always pornographic or explicit.

There are laws protecting people against cyber exploitation, particularly to combat invasion of privacy, defamation and photos used for commercial purposes without consent.

There are two ways a person can bring a claim to a court of law, according to Anupam Chander, a UC Davis Professor of Law who specializes in cyber law.

There can be claims brought to the person who posted a photo online and claims brought to the website or platform where the photo was posted. The law is different for the two. 

Chander said if a child or teenager in the U.S. wants to file charges similar to the case in Austria, they could claim invasion of privacy. Although, the chances of winning a similar case in California are slim.

A young person would have to prove that childhood photos posted by their parents have a malicious intent or were posted to provoke sexual activity, according to Chander.

An ordinary photo, or photos that may be embarrassing for kids but common for parents to take-- such as nude baby photos-- likely won't get very far in a court.

"It would be a hard case in the U.S." Chander said. "There'd be no special privacy invasion claims a child would have against a parent."

Chander mentioned, Austria and Europe as a whole, have very different laws than the U.S. The U.S. has to consider the First Amendment and freedom of speech laws.

"There's both privacy laws at stake and freedom of speech at stake," Chander said. "This is a difficult balance the courts have."

A platform like Facebook does hold community standards where nudity can be flagged. A child's bath time or diaper change photo could be flagged if the social network found it to be exploitation or offensive. 

Situations can get sticky if a social media network chooses to flag parent photos. In 2014, a North Carolina mother and professional photographer was banned from Facebook for child pornography, after she recreated the iconic Coppertone image using her 2-year-old daughter. The mother argued against the decision, claiming it had no pornographic intent.

Even if it's difficult for kids to sue parents for childhood pictures, there are specific cyber laws made just for minors.

In 2013, a California law was passed to allow anyone under the age of 18 to delete online activity. The addition to SB 568 states that online companies and app developers have to give minors the ability to remove any of their online content, and the right to file a request for content deletion on websites. 

So, although there may be laws protecting minors from having photos and online content come back and haunt them before a big job interview, there's not much they can do to keep parents from embarrassing them.

But some may say, parents doing embarrassing things is a tale as old as time.

Copyright 2016 KXTV


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