When Mark Zuckerberg shared a photo of his family on Instagram on July 4, two things stood out: the billionaire CEO wore a striped souvenir cowboy hat, and her children’s faces have been replaced with happy face emojis.
Zuckerberg’s post was quickly criticized by some who saw the decision to obscure the faces as a reflection of his privacy concerns for sharing photos of his children online, despite his creation of massive platforms that enable millions of other parents to do just that.
Meta, Instagram’s parent company, has long come under scrutiny over how it handles user privacy and how its algorithms can be used to direct young users down potentially harmful rabbit holes.
But the choice also highlights a broader trend among some social media users, and particularly celebrities, to be more cautious about sharing identifiable photos of their children online.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg with his family on July 4, 2023.
For years, Kristen’s celebrities Bell and Gigi Hadid to Chris Pratt and Orlando Bloom have blurred images or used emojis to help protect their children’s privacy on social media. Zuckerberg, too, had previously posted photos of the backs of his daughters’ heads and their side profiles rather than showing their full faces.
It’s rarer for ordinary users to take a similar approach, but maybe that shouldn’t be the case.
“By telling us that he has been careful not to share the location of his family or the identities of his children, he can communicate that it is the responsibility of end users to protect themselves online”, said Alexandra Hamlet, a New York-based psychologist who closely follows the impact of social media on young users.
Meta did not respond to a request for comment.
Few things are as essential to the parenting experience as showing off lots of, possibly embarrassing, photos of your kids with anyone who will stop and watch. But over the years, a growing number of parents and experts have become concerned about the risks of sharing these photos on social media, including the possibility of exposing children to identity theft technology and facial recognition, as well as creating an internet history that could track. them as adults.
Some parents choose to restrict the amount of sharing on their children or limit sharing to less public platforms. Others are adopting smarter hacks like obscuring their children’s faces.
Leah Plunkett, author of “Sharenthood” and Associate Dean of Learning Experience and Innovation (LXI) at Harvard Law School, said blocking out a child’s face is a symbol that you’re giving them control of their own narrative.
“Every time you post about your kids, you allow them to tell their own stories about who they are and who they want to become,” she said. “We grow up doing silly things and more than a few mistakes and grow better after making them. If we lose the privacy of teenagers and children to play and explore, and to live and through trial and error, we will deprive them of the ability develop and tell stories [on their own terms].”
Remarkably, Zuckerberg didn’t hide his baby’s face girl, which might suggest that the risks to a baby’s face are less of a concern than a young child. However, Plunkett said the AI technology can be used to track changes in a face over time and may still be able to connect any child, even a baby, to an image of them later. when he is older.
Plunkett thinks social media companies can do more, such as offering a setting that automatically blurs children’s faces or prevents any photos with a child from being used for marketing or advertising purposes.
For now, however, it is up to parents to limit or refrain from sharing photos of their children online.
“It’s not just parents – grandparents, coaches, teachers and other trusted adults should also prevent children from taking photos and videos to protect their privacy, safety, future opportunities and current, and their ability to understand their own story about themselves and for themselves,” she says.