The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Lifestyles

September 6, 2013

Why we post nothing about our daughter online

I vividly remember the Facebook post. It was my friend's 5-year-old daughter "Kate," (a pseudonym) standing outside of her house in a bright yellow bikini, the street address clearly visible behind her on the front door. A caption read "Leaving for our annual Labor Day weekend at the beach," and beneath it were more than 50 likes and comments from friends - including many "friends" that Kate's mom barely knew.

The picture had been uploaded to a Facebook album, and there were 114 shots just of Kate: freshly cleaned and swaddled on the day of her birth . . . giving her Labradoodle a kiss . . . playing on a swing set. 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. It reads in part: "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." Essentially, this means that with each photo upload, Kate's parents are, unwittingly, helping Facebook to merge her digital and real worlds. Algorithms will analyze the people around Kate, the references made to them in posts, and over time will determine Kate's most likely inner circle.

The problem is that Facebook is only one site. With every status update, YouTube video, and birthday blog post, Kate's parents are preventing her from any hope of future anonymity.

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? We know that admissions counselors review Facebook profiles and a host of other websites and networks in order to make their decisions.

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. Already developers have made a working facial recognition API for Google Glass. While Google has forbidden official facial recognition apps, it can't prevent unofficial apps from launching. There's huge value in gaining real-time access to view detailed information about the people with whom we interact.

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. Any hopes Kate may have had for true anonymity ended with that ballet class YouTube channel.

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. We'd narrowed the list down to a few alternatives and ran each through domain and keyword searches to see what was available. 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.

We turned to KnowEm.com, a website I often rely on to search for usernames, even though the site is primarily intended as a brand registration service. We certainly had a front-runner for her name, but we would have chosen something different if the KnowEm results produced limited availability or if we found negative content associated with our selection.

With her name decided, we spent several hours registering her URL and a vast array of social media sites. All of that tied back to a single email account, which would act as a primary access key. We listed my permanent email address as a secondary - just as you'd fill out financial paperwork for a minor at a bank. We built a password management system for her to store all of her login information.

On the day of her birth, our daughter already had accounts at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Github. And to this day, we've never posted any content.

All accounts are kept active but private. We also regularly scour the networks of our friends and family and remove any tags. Those who know us well understand and respect our "no posts about the kid" rule.

When we think she's mature enough, we'll hand her an envelope with her master password inside. She'll have the opportunity to start cashing in parts of her digital identity, and we'll ensure that she's making informed decisions about what's appropriate to reveal about herself, and to whom.

It's inevitable that our daughter will become a public figure, because we're all public figures in this new digital age. I adore Kate's parents, and they're raising her to be an amazing young woman. But they're essentially robbing her of a digital adulthood that's free of bias and presupposition.

Webb writes a column about data for Slate. She's the head of Webbmedia Group, a digital strategy agency, the author of "Data, A Love Story" and the co-founder of Spark Camp.

               

 

 

1
Text Only
Lifestyles
  • Choral group marks 10th anniversary CLINTON -- A Clinton choral group will celebrate its 10th anniversary this weekend. RiverChor will celebrate the anniversary at 2 p.m. Sunday at Zion Lutheran Church. The concert is free, but donations will be accepted. A reception will be held in th

    April 21, 2014

  • Human trafficking Stickers highlight human trafficking CLINTON -- Area establishments are receiving added decor this week thanks to an anti-trafficking committee. Sisters of St. Francis Center for Active Nonviolence and Peacemaking Anti-Trafficking committee members are placing stickers in local establis

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cats outsmart the researchers

    I knew a lot had been written about dogs, and I assumed there must be at least a handful of studies on cats. But after weeks of scouring the scientific world for someone - anyone - who studied how cats think, all I was left with was this statement, laughed over the phone to me by one of the world's top animal cognition experts, a Hungarian scientist named Ádám Miklósi.

    April 22, 2014

  • Calling all munchkins CLINTON -- The Clinton Area Showboat Theatre is looking for munchkins. Local auditions will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, May 19, at the Showboat for munchkins in the upcoming "The Wizard of Oz" performance. Munchkins may be of any age as long as

    April 22, 2014

  • St. Paul grants Church awards grants

    CLINTON -- An area church recently awarded area organizations with grants. The Bickelhaupt Arboretum, the Felix Adler Children's Discovery Center, First Circle Friends, YWCA, Voices for the Land/Monarch Teacher Network and Haley Westerkamp were grant

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • On Iowa program selects Clinton residents CLINTON -- Four Clinton residents recently were named On Iowa student leaders. Keaton Fuller, Jacinta Jargo, Kenya Lewis and Allyson Naeve were among 235 people selected to serve as welcomers to new first-year and transfer students at the University

    April 22, 2014

  • Screen shot 2014-04-18 at 4.44.15 PM.png Paint, doodle and sketch: 3 apps for art lovers

    In the absence of a palette of watercolors and a sketchpad, these three apps can fill in as your art supplies of choice.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Costume jewelry popular at auction It was a large and varied auction on April 12 at the National Guard Armory and by the start of the auction more than 100 people had already registered for their bidding number, and 30 to 40 additional people showed up during the first 20 minutes of t

    April 19, 2014

  • Way of the Cross photo The Way of the Cross By Amy Kent Herald Staff Writer The Way of the Cross

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Student leadership Alumni honor students at luncheon CLINTON -- Clinton Community College student leaders were recognized at a student leader luncheon. The CCC Alumni Association honored 30 students, who were nominated by the CCC staff and faculty for showing leadership in the classroom, on campus and

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

Elections
Front page
Clinton Herald Photos


Browse, buy and submit pictures with our photo site.

Poll

Should the city of Clinton appeal the open records violation ruling that will cost taxpayers $40,600?

Yes
No
     View Results
AP Video
Olympics 2014
Featured Comment
Featured Ads
Blue Zones Project
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.