Let's Ponder the Ethics Of Posting Your Baby's Pictures Online


As a feminist, I’m occasionally accused of both witchcraft and hating children, which isn’t fair. I don’t hate children; I love them. I only have two problems with children: first, that people keep having them and then acting like the first person in human history to ever have a baby, and second, that people keep posting incredibly oversharey pictures of them on Facebook. But in the ongoing LOOK AT MY KID’S INNER THIGH RASH vs. I DO NOT WANT TO LOOK AT YOUR KID’S INNER THIGH RASH debate, one question remains unanswered: what about the baby’s rights over its own image?

The notion of an infant having the right to control his or her own image sounds silly when most infants can’t control his or her own bowels, but it’s a real ethical question posed in today’s New York Times ethicist column. To summarize, the question posed asked whether endless close ups of your baby’s widdle chubby wubby face violated your baby’s privacy.

I love babies and feel it’s acceptable to post a photo from a holiday gathering or a first picture of a newborn. But when this happens every day from a specific acquaintance, is it a violation of the baby’s privacy? The baby did not sign up for a Facebook account, does not understand the concept of Facebook and obviously was not asked permission to have its pictures on the site.

Excellent, weird question, anonymous asker. And Chuck Klosterman responded with an almost as weird answer, the meat of which is here:

The violation of personal privacy doesn’t start until an individual has the ability to understand what the violation means.

This implies that posting endless pictures of your baby is just as unethical as posting endless pictures of your cat. But what happens when the babies of Facebook are old enough to know what violation is and care how their image is used? Would parents have a moral obligation to take down their kids’ baby pictures or be in violation of their now-older children’s autonomy? Do parents retain the right to publicly broadcast photographs of their children before their children were old enough to understand violation… forever?

AND FURTHERMORE (pushes glasses up bridge of nose) I’d go further and add that if Facebook photos of a baby in a diaper count as non-consensual uses of another human’s image (albeit uses that parents have a right to employ), then posting ultrasounds could be construed as a pretty egregious violation of that future person’s privacy. Sure, the image is technically taken inside the baby’s mother’s body, but nudity’s nudity. One of my friends posted a photo of their 20-week ultrasound with the little baby penis circled and then captioned the photo IT’S A BOY! That is your child’s dick, you monsters. One day your baby is going to use that to have sex. This might not be unethical, but it’s gross.

So, if you were hoping for a compelling moral argument against Facebook baby pictures, I’m sorry; I can’t help you. If you’re really that sick of baby pictures on social networks, a pro tip: the block button.


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