• Sun, May 5 2013

I’ve Signed The Petition Calling For Kids’ Instagram Privacy Changes, Have You?

girl-taking-picture-with-phoneI know grade school students with Facebook accounts and tweens on Twitter. There are many lovely, useful things about social media — but because it’s still a new phenomenon in the grand scheme, there are still serious kinks. Well, “kink” is perhaps too light a word to use in reference to this problem with Instagram.

Apparently, Instagram settings are public by default, so a kid opening a new account will immediately be publishing his photos for the world to see. Also, Instagram settings revert to public when you perform routine smart phone updates, so it’s an ongoing task to keep images private. On top of this, kids often activate geolocation without realizing they’re doing it. What’s geolocation? Well, this lovely anecdote from the Change.org petition page explains it well:

The images were “geotagged” – associating each photograph with the exact location where it was taken. As a stranger to this site, I found my daughter’s picture, her full name, school name, grade level, and then, with one click on the map icon, I was able to view the exact location of her school, our home, and her primary after school location. All without our knowledge or permission. This absolutely should not be happening – especially not for minors.

Are you kidding me? So any random psycho can walk into the library, open Instagram, pick out a target and have access to all of the information necessary to find and kidnap said child? In what world is this okay? When I was growing up, we weren’t even allowed to wear shirts or hats with our names on them because kidnappers might beckon us by calling our names out. This so totally goes beyond that.

Here’s what I want to know, too. What’s an instance in which geotagging could be a good thing? I’m serious, maybe I’m just completely out of the loop or having a really hard time thinking critically this morning, but geotagging seems like it has way more potential to do harm than good. Maybe law enforcement uses geotagging to track down missing people?
Like, the same children that went missing because all of their information was public on Instagram?

Gah.

The Change.org petition, created by Kristin Geiser, Mary Hofstedt and Robin Connell, has over 1,000 signatures but still needs more. I can’t believe the carelessness of Instagram creators regarding children’s privacy. Any other product readily available to children, whether it’s vitamins, a carseat or a toy must meet certain health and safety regulations. Why isn’t it the same for this?

(photo: Elliot Westacott/Shutterstock)

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  • Tea

    Last I checked, all social media services, including instagram, required you to be 13 or older to use them. I see that the petition says 13-17, so you may be using “kids” the same way as “Minors,” but I wanted to make sure other readers knew this.

    Also, Most social media sites also so a lot of shady stuff, like Instagram’s right to use your photo however they please, which means your kid’s duckfacing could be used in an ad without your permission (which I believe is going to court) and Facebook’s lawsuits over doing the same with your info and browsing habits. Even a linked google account can do shady things like tell your friends what videos you’ve been watching and such.

    I’ll probably sign the petition, but I doubt much, if anything will be done until a lawsuit is served.I’m working on a book on social media safety and awareness (with a huge section on damage control) Because new things just keep happening that make it easier to get in a pickle, all in the name of being more linked.

  • http://www.facebook.com/RetiredSceneQueen Emmali Lucia

    Geotagging is really great for apps that have some sort of GPS need (Urbanspoon, Google maps, Yelp), but I agree, some really strange apps have GPS built in (Like why does Facebook even have a “Where are you at?” No one cares except for yucky people)

    People with smart phones really should to be aware of the location services and privacy settings. You can turn the entire Location Services off (It’s really helpful for saving battery, also)

  • http://www.facebook.com/pittsburghdoula Vanessa Manz

    And kids need Instagram and smartphones, why again?

  • http://www.facebook.com/maureen.eggert Maureen A. Eggert

    It is not the same because vitamins, carseats and toys are are products designed specifically FOR children, and therefore have special protections and regulations. Instagram, for better or worse, is designed for adults. While I am not opposed to different privacy defaults (personally I find it as is creepy), it is parents who are providing the unmonitored access to phones/computers (or actually helping children violate the rules like the grade schoolers on FB). Technology is a tool that is designed for the general population, and it cannot be handed off to a child without giving it a fraction of the research that would be given to selecting a carseat or vitamins.

  • AS

    The main thing is to educate your child about the importance of privacy and privacy settings. While it would be nice of Instagram to take an initiative to have special accounts for children, I don’t know that it is their responsibility. And, no one says that a child will enter their correct age either. Some of these social media outlets were designed with 18 and over in mind anyway.