Social Networks, Control, Gov, and You

What is it about politicians that make them absolutely freak out about things that they really shouldn’t be wroried about? The latest is that the EU internet security agency ENISA is calling for all sorts of new laws to be put in place concerning social networks. It sounds like most of the proposed laws will take care of really minor “problems” that might occur at the expense of annoying just about everyone. For example, it wants laws to be put in place saying that you cannot post someone’s photo online without their consent. You can understand the extreme case they’re looking to prevent (someone putting up embarrassing photos), but that’s rare, and the trouble it will cause for normal folks just taking snapshots will be immense. ENISA is apparently also really worried about the fact that (I kid you not) people don’t realize that you can befriend people via a social network that you don’t really know (gasp!). The thing is, social conventions seem to take care of most of these problems without the need for any sort of special legislation, but if you’re a gov’t agency, I guess it’s only natural to think in terms of what laws can you add.

Techdirt: EU Officials Way Too Worried About Social Networks

Interesting stuff.  Not sure about more perimeters… It will be very interesting(?) to see how the EU does with this stuff, and how it will affect the ease of use with communities & UGC.  I have to say though – I bolded one sentence that caught me.

MUWA MUWA MUWA.  This “photo” issue is something I’ve been eyeballing for a while now.  Not that I necessarily am ON BOARD with such a thing.

Okay, I know they’re just alluding to it… but it’s been something on the perimeter of my Eye of Mordor.  It’s like that spidey tingle Peter Parker gets when something is coming… 

It all started when I was moderating photos of Edgar & Ellen fans, submitted by kids.  We were only looking for objects that resembled “Pet” (spaghetti with a meatball, garden hose with a soccer ball, etc).  T-O-N-S of kids would continuously upload pictures of themselves with their friends (despite the fact this WASN’T what we asked for, and specifically noted NOT to send self-images).  Naturally, none of these were approved since we didn’t have parental sign off for images of minor’s faces (identity, folks… it’s your last right).  I remember thinking: wow… kids have an itchy trigger finger with passing photos of themselves along.

Then when I was moderating a teen/20-something “entertainment”-associated community website (which will go unnamed, but while I was working for eMod), we had strict rules on uploading images of youth – even in the family context.  NO MINORS.  Why?  Because there needed to be parental sign off for all photos (How do you prove who is really a parent in this world, and who is just a camp counselor – visually?).  These folks would upload pics of many kids with them (again, siblings, camps, etc).

A second company I worked with at eMod was a parenting website run by a big dog company.  They had their own strict rules about kids.  And the parental members of the community would upload pictures of entire teams of kids from little league or junior soccer, etc.  It got me thinking – with all this craziness about protecting kids images online from companies trying to save themselves from liability… how much do the parents care?

Then I pondered: maybe people aren’t talking about multi-minor images (class photos, teams, birthday parties, etc) on public social networking systems because they haven’t put too much thought on the fact they have no control over their child’s image.  <- at this realization I did a duck and spy, as if such thoughts were dangerous if spoken aloud.  Putting dangerous ideas that may or may not cause bandwagons out for the publics consumption.  Don’t speak of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named for fear of his actually answering the call.  Oh, silly izzy.

For the most part, with the help of Youtube’s conspiracies and constant troubles… so far, no worries.  Loads of people are reacting badly to content made and displayed on youtube.  You hear all about the BAD behavior choices of video participants, but rarely do you hear parents upset because their child was in the background and they didn’t give permission for their child’s image to be displayed publicly.

But just because it hasn’t been raised as an important issue, doesn’t mean it won’t in the future.  Are there going to be uber-sensitive folks (aka those of the governmental species) hoping to solve such possibilities by requiring parental approval for all minors – like the tagging system in Facebook, you have to tag your child before the entire picture can be shown live?  It might just happen.

Again, one of the last rights you have to yourself is your identity.  Everyone’s all share-y, share-y now (sharing means caring), but once people grow accustomed to the way of the web, will they start to assess how they’re (and their loved ones) are appearing online? 

I try to be transparent.  I’m in community management and safety – which means my existence on the web is a make or break deal.  Gotta be smart, careful, proactive.  But do I want my imaginary child’s image on the hypothetical web in places I can’t control?  I dunno.  For the most part, I’ll probably shrug and how that the people who know me & my family have our best interests at heart.  Then again… it doesn’t take much for “once bitten, twice shy” to become a “thrice momma bear from hell.” 

So I leave it to the future.  What will happen with such future controls & the mighty web?  Will people get all snuggly into their web presence and start to realize that they want more “say” over who, where, and how their children are represented?  And will they look to the government to step in and make laws that require “parental sign offs” for every child displayed?

I have to say… for myself?  I like the fact facebook gives folks an opportunity to tag or be tagged, and therefore know when their face joins facebook.


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