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Privacy Issues in a Big Scary World

Mark, 16 Weeks
Mark, 16 Weeks

Like most new parents, I’m often torn between sharing cute pictures of my kid and withholding them because, you know, it’s a big scary world we are living in.

Indeed, there seem to be two schools of thought regarding family life: sharing snippets with the online world or going completely under the radar. Some parents set up password-protected “baby blogs” and only invite close friends or family member to read them. Others make up a cute nickname for their kids to avoid using their real names, and never post pictures where the kid could be identified easily—they opt for “macro” shots for instance, hands, feet, etc. but do not show the face.

On the other side of the spectrum, some parents do not mind sharing their life and family information on various social networks such as Facebook. Some articles can even be tagged “too much information” with pictures of the baby’s first poop, mommy’s placenta, graphic delivery shots, etc.—just have a look at the hilarious STFU Parents blog to understand what “oversharing” means.

I’m a bit split on privacy issue.

I do not have a Facebook account because I care about my privacy and I do not like the idea of handing my information to a third-party website that can use it for commercial purposes or market research. But what about this blog? Well, I love my self-hosted blog on the other side, because I can control what I share and what I’d rather keep private.

For instance, I do share pictures of Feng, baby Mark and myself, but the house is off limits. I do want to post pictures of Mark but I won’t publish anything that could embarrass him later on—so no nude and nothing he or I would regret sharing in his teens. I have never posted pictures of family members, including my parents or in-laws. I don’t post pictures of me doing the duckface or trying on underwear in front of the bathroom mirror—not that these shots exist in the first place, but you get the idea. I don’t bitch about my clients or my work online (that was a tough one at times when I was a teacher, though!). Some of my articles are introspective but I don’t think I have ever invaded anyone’s privacy and I’m not ashamed of what I shared so far.

I blog under the nickname of “Zhu” because that’s how a lot of my friends call me but I have never hidden my real name—Juliette Giannesini. If you Google me (and yes, I do it periodically), you will find this blog, my LinkedIn profile, my Flickr and Twitter accounts, a few published pictures and interviews, and even credits in late Lonely Planet travel guides. Nothing that I’m ashamed of and wouldn’t want a potential client, employer, friend of family member to see.

In fact, having a public online identity can be an asset. I am a freelancer, and my clients can Google me to get an idea of who I am and what I work on. In my previous position in a Crowd Corporation, my boss told me later on that he had found my blog and liked my writing skills—that’s partially why I got the job.

I try to do the same with Mark—controlling the information I make available online. Cute baby pictures? Hit “publish”. Diaper-changing pictures? Nope.

“But what about the pedophiles?” some parents wonder. Well, I am aware of the fact that some sick people enjoy collecting pictures of kids, but what am I going to do? Like I said, I won’t post any nude or overly private picture online, such as bath time or breastfeeding pictures. But what would prevent a predator from sneaking a picture of Mark at the mall or in the street? Nothing. I think the “OMG pervs are looking at your children!” fear is a bit irrational to be honest. There are plenty of graphic and explicit materials online for all kinds of fetishes. Browsing blogs is a waste of time for sickos—who aren’t that many in the first place (no, really, just stop watching Fox News and you’ll be fine)—they know where to look for much “entertaining” materials.

The same goes with copyright issues on the web. Some photographers add huge watermarks to their shots or refrain from sharing their work because they are afraid it may be stolen, misappropriated or mistreated.

While I respect these professionals’ point of view, I chose to share my work, including on Flickr where most of my pictures have a Creative Commons license (Attribution-NonCommercial Creative Commons). I’ve been writing this blog since 2006 and I have yet to have major issues regarding articles or pictures copyright. Maybe I’m not that good or interesting, maybe I’m just lucky.

It may be my “Amélie Poulain” side but most days, I choose to see the world as a nice place and I refuse to give in to the “culture of fear” where we are too often scared of the wrong things.

As a new parent, whatever you decide will be the best for your kid. There is no magic formula, no clear rule, no good or bad—that includes any decision you make regarding privacy issues.

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